Understanding Rwanda: Memories from a human rights trip

Vicki Hill with Felix and Peter of Les Enfants de Dieu, Rwanda.

In August 2012, a group of 20 SMU students, faculty and staff members visited Rwanda with the University’s Embrey Human Rights Program.

The group went to observe how the African country is recovering from its 1994 civil war, in which up to a million people were killed in 100 days.

They also shared 200 pounds of school supplies donated by the SMU community and 7 boxes of books given by Dallas-based Half Price Books, as well as medical supplies donated in part by Denver-based service group Project C.U.R.E.

One traveler was Vicki Hill, SMU’s assistant dean for the University Curriculum. Hill shared her insights in an SMU Adventures blog that documented the trip and her struggle with what she learned.

“I saw what I hope is the most horrible thing I will ever see in my entire life, and I experienced moments of pure joy and affirmation,” Hill wrote.

> Read more from Vicki Hill and other Rwanda travelers at SMU Adventures

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 smu.edu/humanrights or call Aikman at 214-768-8347.

— Denise Gee