SMU Rwanda travelers seek school supplies for August 2012 trip

UPDATE Aug. 2, 2012: Thanks to donations from the SMU community and friends, the Embrey Human Rights Program travelers will leave for Rwanda tomorrow with 12 suitcases filled with 200 pounds of school supplies and 250 pounds of books (from Half-Price Books) to share with children at the Urukundo Home for Children.

Former SMU student (now alumna) Astrud Villareal helps with a construction project at the Urukundo Home for Children during a Embrey Human Rights Program trip to Rwanda in 2009. Photo by Sherry Aikman.

Twenty SMU students and staffers will be in Rwanda Aug. 3-13, 2012, on a two-fold mission: Not only to see how the African country is recovering from its 1994 civil war — in which up to a million people were killed in 100 days — but also to share educational and medical supplies with Rwandan youth.

The Embrey Human Rights Program travel group is still seeking such school supplies as pencils and pens, slim notebooks, small tape dispensers, slim packages of paper, and “anything portable,” says program coordinator Sherry Aikman.

Donated items will be accepted at 109 Clements Hall until Wednesday, Aug. 1.

The travel group will take extra suitcases loaded with school supplies as well as seven boxes of books for children and young adults given to them by Half Price Books. They also will have medical supplies donated in part by Project C.U.R.E., a Denver-based service group for which SMU student Hayley Wagner is a summer intern.

Wagner, who recently traveled to Rwanda on the Student Leadership Initiative trip led by Embrey Human Rights Program Associate Director Pat Davis, helped the Embrey program purchase $2,000 worth of medical supplies for $200. The kits will be given to the Urukundo Home for Children.

This is the third year the Embrey Human Rights Program has sponsored the Rwanda trip, which will have the group visiting schools, orphanages and genocide sites to meet with survivors.

“We’ll be interacting not only with the issues of genocide, which are so visually present throughout the country, but also with the people and organizations working for a better Rwanda,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, who is leading the trip.

For more information visit or call Aikman at 214-768-8347.

— Denise Gee

Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee to speak at SMU May 23, 2012

2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee
Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Photo credit: Michael Angelo for Wonderland.

Liberian peace activist and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee will make one of her few scheduled 2012 U.S. speaking appearances at SMU on Wednesday, May 23. The author of Mighty Be Our Powers will discuss “Women, Leadership and Human Rights” at 7:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.

On the day of her SMU appearance, Gbowee will be a guest on KERA Radio’s “Think” during the 1-2 p.m. hour. Listen live at audio

Gbowee’s visit to the Hilltop presents a rare opportunity to hear her discuss her role in helping end Liberia’s second civil war, as well as her advice on how women can bring about change in seemingly hopeless situations.

> Newsweek: A Dictator, Vanquished (4/29/2012)

Gbowee began pushing for change as a trauma and rehabilitation volunteer during Liberia’s second civil war. Lasting from 1989 to 2003, the war was sparked by deep-seated anger over economic inequality, natural resources abuse and vicious rivalries between ethnic groups that included descendants of the freed American slaves who founded Liberia in 1847.

At the conflict’s center was Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord who served as Liberian president until being forced into exile in 2003, thanks in large part to Gbowee’s leadership efforts. Last month, a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, convicted Taylor of 11 counts of war crimes – including acts of terrorism, murder and rape – for arming and aiding Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front in a terror campaign in Sierra Leone and Liberia that claimed 120,000 lives from 1991-2001. It was the world court’s first judgment against a former head of state since the World War II Nuremberg trials. Sentencing for Taylor, who has pleaded innocent, is scheduled for May 30.

> National Public Radio: War crimes judges hear Charles Taylor’s sentencing pleas (5/16/2012)

“Leymah represents a new movement of women in the world starting – and achieving – grassroots movements for peace, justice and human rights,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Associate Director Pat Davis. “In acts that were selfless and courageous in the face of terrible brutality, she led a group of women to help throw out a dictator [Taylor] and elect the first female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is weeding out corruption herself.”

Tickets are $10 for students, $25 for WAC members and $35 for non-members. The lecture is presented by the World Affairs Council (WAC) of Dallas/Fort Worth in partnership with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the Embrey Family Foundation, the Boone Family Foundation, Donna Wilhelm and Trea Yip.

For more information, call 214-965-8412 or visit

Written by Denise Gee

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