LEAF International | Rwanda

Founded in 2006 | Located in Kigali, Rwanda | 23 Vulnerable Youth Served

Why Rwanda? Jean Paul Samputu had performed at LEAF several times, and shared powerful stories of a group of young orphans he had worked with in his hometown of Kigali. After hearing about LEAF International, he invited LEAF to come to Rwanda to work with this group of young boys he had been mentoring. This extraordinary and complex journey thus began.

“When you are living on the street, there is no hope, there is no life, there is no future. The music has changed us. We now feel proud and have hope. Through music and performance, we are example students to the rest of our community and our country.”

LEAF Intore Cultural Troupe

Program Overview

In Kinyarwanda, the word “Intore” refers to a person who is desperate and hopeless, then GIVEN HOPE by a person or event. This newfound hope gives the person strength to learn new skills, see life through new eyes, and become a better person and a leader. An Intore is a true hero.

As a result of the 1994 genocide and the AIDS epidemic, 70% of the Rwandan population is under 30. Many of those young people are orphans who lack housing and education. In 2006, LEAF International began working with 25 children who lived on the street in Rwanda, reaching out to them with traditonal drumming classes. Now years later, most of this group have grown into young men and international quality performing artists who speak English, live in a home, and are positive members of their community. It has been a long powerful extraordinary journey.  

Today, members of this original group make up the LEAF Intore Cultural Troupe. These young men receive weekly traditional drumming classes, and perform for the community. These classes and performances help to preserve Rwanda’s musical traditions.


Through the project, students gain:

  • Weekly traditional drumming classes
  • Housing
  • Training in valuable skill development that could lead to future work in the field
  • Self-esteem and pride at keeping their traditions alive
  • Discipline skills
  • Community building through cultural arts
  • An outlet to HEAL from the genocide and tradgedies that they have lived through
Meet the Intore Cultural Troupe Students

Each day was a struggle for food and survival. Now David has a natural confidence, a big heart and a warm smile. He is currently working hard to empower other youth in his community through music and cultural activities.

David’s powerful story in his own words: “My name is David Kwizera. I was born in 1989, in Gisenyi. I grew up without my parents. I was living with a older woman who I considered was my grandmother. She found me abandoned in a field. When I was 10, thieves invaded our house, took our belongings and killed my Grandmother. Left with no family, I ended up living on the streets in Gisenyi, but life on the street was tough. I ended up in Kigali where the situation was not much better. I was lucky to meet with LEAF International who have helped me get music and dance training and accommodations.”

“My name is Olivier Murigande and I am 20 years old. Both of my parents were killed during the 1994 genocide. My sister and I fled to Uganda. When we got there my sister became a prostitute. Five months after the end of the war, I returned to Rwanda to find our home was a wreck. I went  to live with my aunt, but after a while she died of AIDS. Having no one else to rely on, I went to live on the street. I thank LEAF International for rescuing me from the street.”

“My name is Emmanuel Nshimiyimana. I was born in 1988 in the province of Kigali City. I have one other sibling. Right after the death of my mother, I was separated from my father and my family did nothing to help me. Poverty and hunger are the reasons that I ended up living on the street. I am thankful for LEAF International, my pseudo-family that rescued me from the street.”

To read more stories of the young men in the LEAF International Intore Cultural Troupe, click here.

Meet the Intore Troupe Teaching Artists & Leaders

Abraham Konga is a mentor to the guys, and LEAF International Coordinator for the Rwanda Program. Abraham and his wife, Alice, show much care for their community and out of their 4 children, 2 are adopted. Abraham is also a necklace designer and teaches traditional African jewelry-making at his store in Kigali. He says, “being a small time artist has some challenges, however, I am still growing.” 

Abdullah  is their Teaching Artist, teaching and mentoring drumming and dance!

Patrick is the elected Leader of Technical Performance. He helps lead the LEAF Intore Troupe in dance and performance technique. He sets an example of how to perform on stage with a big smile and explaining arm placement and dance routines.

The Troupe in Action

“Most of us grew up on the streets, and it was not our choice. We are sad for the others that are still on the streets. We dream to have work, and when we can sustain ourselves, we wish to take in other kids from the streets. We want to reach other kids — not only from the streets, but youth in general. We want to empower other kids the way that we were empowered. We will work hard to help the youth of Rwanda.”

David Kwizera



From music instruments to child sponsorships, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to support music and arts education programs in the country of your choosing.



Want to learn more about our program in Rwanda? Click on the link below to download the 2006 site report with detailed descriptions of the program from the LEAF International team!


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Project Highlights

LEAF International Ambassador, Sarah Hipp, visited the Intore Cultural Troupe this September for a couple weeks and worked on getting passports for all the guys so that they can come to LEAF soon! One of the troupe members, Patrick, recieved his passport and visa and has been performing around the USA with his brother Pacifque. In October the brothers came and performed at LEAF and sold some of the beautiful paintings that they brought from Rwanda. With the help of Patrick and Pacifque, we are hoping to get the rest the Intore Cultural Troupe to LEAF in 2017! 
The Troupe becomes officially registered with the Ministry of Culture and Youth through the Rwanda Development Board. This process will bring many opportunities to the Intore Cultural Troupe!!
After dedicated, persistence, and a good outlook on life, Ally graduates university! Congratulations!

Daniel sent a wonderful update that he is no longer a driver but a full time musician! We are so proud of him!

LI Rwanda staff/board return to Kigali to visit Troupe and envision how the program can be strengthened. Read more about their trip HERE!
Patrick is recognized as best dancer in the country! Independence steps-3 young men are hired for good regular jobs!
Kelly Simpson says goodbye- she taught the troupe English for 3 years.

Daniel, the Troupe’s Inanga player, performs for The President’s Wife Birthday and is hired for regular concerts at local international hotels.

Several Troupe members have their first teaching experience with Star School.
Several of the Troupe Members join national troupes.
LEAF Intore Troupe does first performance at Serena Hotel Ballroom.
LEAF partners with Ivuka Arts.
Jean Paul Samputu and Mizero Children of Rwanda return to LEAF Festival. 
LI Rwanda partners with Playing for Change Foundation to pursue the dream of Intore Cultural Center.

 LI Rwanda Students move from the streets into a HOUSE thanks to help of a LEAF supporter! They name themselves LEAF Intore Cultural Troupe.

Troupe starts a football team & is first “Street Kids” to win Football Tournament!
October 2007
Jean Paul Samputu visits LEAF Festival with Mizero Children of Rwanda to showcase Rwandan traditions and promote the LI Rwanda program. Mizero continues their own international tour, making connections and telling the story of our LI Rwanda kids.
December 2006
LI Rwanda begins at the invite of international performing artist, Jean Paul Samputu.

Featured Partner

Impano Arts Center: This center provides space for artists-in-residence to explore their creative talent. Impano creates opportunities for Rwanda’s most underserved people to develop livelihoods in the creative arts through workshops, trainings and classes. Impano provides anyone the space to fuel their creative expression.

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Throughout it’s journey, LI Rwanda has had the privilege to work with many different partners. Thank you to past partners Ivuka Arts Kigali and thePlaying for Change Foundation for their support at different points along LI Rwanda’s path!

In Memory of Hamza Jeanpaul

In remembrance and honor of one of the LEAF Intore brothers who was shot in September 2009
 (pictured in the middle)
Jeanpaul’s death by a police officer brought into light the boys’ extremely vulnerable situation. The open sky parking lot where they had been sleeping on cardboard boxes for years was no longer a safe haven. “Police patrolling happens every night so the children were in constant fear,” says Volunteer Coordinator Celestin. 

About Rwanda – “The Land of One Thousand Hills”

Rwanada is the smallest country in Africa (the size of Massachusetts) with a population of 9 million. The per capita income is only $370.00 USD, and 60%  of people live below poverty line. In 1994, the country was plagued by a terrible Genocide. Over the course of 100 days (April 6-July 16, 1994) an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and some moderate Hutus were slaughtered. More than six men, women and children were murdered every minute of every hour of every day. This killing was maintained for more than 3 months. Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 100 days of genocide. Up to 20,000 children were born to women as a result of rape. More than 67% of women who were raped in the genocide were infected with HIV and AIDS. Over half of the children who survived the genocide stopped their schooling because of poverty.

Learn about Rwandan musical traditions here: LInat-geo-music