Student Leadership Initiative, Africa

Seven members of SMU’s recently formed Student Leadership Initiative (SLI) are in Rwanda, Uganda and Johannesburg during May 2012. The students are researching human rights issues and empowerment solutions for three African countries recovering from decades of genocide, war, famine, disease and apartheid. Pat Davis, associate director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, is accompanying them on the program.

Uganda: Rural life (Part 1)

An update from Katie, a sophomore majoring in dance, international studies and human rights: This has certainly been an adventure… I have had the time of my life. Africa has far exceeded my expectations – my time here has been incredible in every sense of the word. I don’t even know how to put it into words, it’s just too much and still sinking in. But I know I must, because I don’t want to forget a single detail of my time here – the people, their smiles, the way the food tastes, the sounds of the land waking me up, the unreal green everywhere I look. This entire experience has been so physically and emotionally and spiritually and intellectually [...]

2012-06-12T17:51:16+00:00 June 9th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|

Our African tour

An update from Allison, a junior majoring in environmental engineering, math and dance: Two and a half weeks in Africa was just enough to scratch the surface of understanding the central and southern regions of the continent.  I along with six other students were overwhelmed with new sights, sounds, foods, animals, education curricula, government systems, social structures, and everything in between.  I feel as if I took a whirlwind tour of the most tragic and poverty-ridden sites in the world right alongside the most beautiful landscapes and colorful cultures. Rwanda Our first week in Rwanda I experienced both ends of the emotional spectrum every single day.  When touring the Kigali, Ntarama, Nyamata, and Murambi genocide memorial sites, I saw the [...]

2012-06-04T22:11:49+00:00 June 4th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|

Postcards from Kampala

An update from Frank Roby, SMU '74, CEO of Dallas-based Empower African Children, who traveled to Kampala to bring together university and post-secondary Ugandan students in his organization with SMU students: If you went to summer camp, you probably remember that feeling of not really knowing anyone. But since your parents had already dropped you off, you just hoped for the best. Sure enough, you had a new best friend by the end of the week. I had that feeling last week, but in an entirely different context. There I was in a room with six of our Ugandan students in our university and post-secondary program, sitting alongside seven SMU President's Scholars in Uganda for a study abroad experience — the [...]

2012-06-06T23:14:07+00:00 June 1st, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|


An update from Hayley, a junior majoring in anthropology and French. She is also blogging here. Yesterday morning we arrived in Johannesburg after a VERY early flight.  It looks just like the U.S., which is quite a shock after Kampala.  We are staying in an awesome guesthouse and got to talk a lot with the owner and architect. It’s so beautiful. Our first stop was the Apartheid museum, which was the biggest museum I’ve ever seen.  We spent two hours there, but could have probably spent 20 there was so much reading.  It was really interesting, especially because none of us have really studied Apartheid before. I learned a lot but it was very overwhelming! We went to dinner at a yummy French cafe [...]

2012-06-20T17:11:14+00:00 May 29th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|

Uganda: City life

An update from Katie, a sophomore majoring in dance, international studies and human rights: Today was a nice transition into Uganda. We got to meet up with Frank (CEO of Empower African Children, the non-profit we will be partnering with here in Uganda) and his wife Linda for a lovely breakfast this morning at the ARA (American Recreation Association) where we are staying. I was slightly cranky and cramping – ugh! – but in high spirits, nonetheless. Michael forgot to change his clock since Kampala is an hour ahead of Kigali so I had to wake him up! I’m so glad Frank and Linda are here with us, they’re both such sweethearts, completely committed to changing kids’ lives and fully [...]

2012-06-12T17:48:14+00:00 May 20th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|


An update from Hayley, a junior majoring in anthropology and French. She is also blogging here. Today we got back from our two-day trip to Urukundo, a home for children near Butare in southern Rwanda. It was such an awesome opportunity! Yesterday we went to the genocide memorial at Murambi, which was a technical school where 50,000 people died in 1994. This was the most difficult memorial we have been to as there were 24 classrooms in six buildings containing lime-preserved bodies. The stench was awful, and the sight very gruesome, especially seeing the bodies that were clearly children. Just horrific. After that rough start we headed to Urukundo orphanage where we met Mama Arlene, who, at age 85, cares for 40 abandoned 3 to 7 [...]

2012-06-20T16:42:54+00:00 May 19th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|

Last day in Rwanda (Part 2)

An update from Katie, a sophomore majoring in dance, international studies and human rights: Leaving Urukundo was tough – I wish we had been able to stay longer… I have a feeling that I may be back sometime in the future. Those children’s sweet faces and prayers will forever be imprinted on my heart. After leaving, we headed to our last stop in Rwanda, a non-profit pertaining to Allison’s research on community arts programs. This program in particular was started by Rebecca Davis Dance in partnership with FIDESCO, an international humanitarian and development non-profit. The program offers dance classes to street boys (kids who don’t attend school and survive alone on the streets), as well as basic IT courses. Rebecca Davis, an American ballerina, started [...]

2012-06-14T21:58:40+00:00 May 18th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|

Last day in Rwanda (Part 1)

An update from Katie, a sophomore majoring in dance, international studies and human rights: I woke up at 5:45 am beneath my mosquito net, really not feeling well. Apparently I had been moaning and coughing in my sleep. It stormed badly the night before, and water came in under our door, completely soaking my backpack and clothing I had set out for the day. I took a deep breath and committed to praying through the day. I’m here in Africa, I’m alive, and I am beyond blessed. The girls and I freshened up and made our way to Mama Arlene’s home to greet her good morning. She truly is an angle, bringing heaven to earth. She glows with the love [...]

2012-06-12T17:37:52+00:00 May 18th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|

Day 3 in Rwanda – Urukundo (“Love”)

An update from Katie, a sophomore majoring in dance, international studies and human rights: We went to the last and most sickening genocide memorial this morning, Murambi, a 2-and-a-half drive from Kigali. I don’t care to write or reflect on it right now – my heart has had enough for this week. All I know is that this world is broken and our God is good. I am currently laying in my bunk at Urukundo (“Love”) with Allison above me and a white mosquito net around me. I feel like I’m in a princess canopy bed. Urukundo is a children’s home run by Mama Arlene, an 85-year-old saint from New Hampshire. She’s just a normal mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, but she called [...]

2012-06-14T22:08:36+00:00 May 17th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|

The world stood by

An update from Michael, a junior majoring in philosophy, English and political science: The Rwandan genocide swept through the country so quickly and completely that nothing was spared from its wrath. Even the holiest of places here, the Christian churches, became sites of unfathomable slaughter. During previous bouts of ethnic violence leading up to the 1994 genocide, churches were safe havens for the persecuted and the hunted. That disappeared with the systematic annihilation of the Tutsi ethnic group in Rwanda by the Hutus. One such site we visited today was an absolute deathtrap. Nothing we found there was joyous. The site is called Ntarama, and over 5,000 people were killed there at one time. There were many people inside the [...]

2012-05-17T19:48:09+00:00 May 16th, 2012|Student Leadership Initiative, Africa|
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