I am grateful for the depth of this trip. The moment I feel as though I have a level of understanding of Rwandan culture and the genocide, I learn more that challenges me reconsider my thoughts, feelings, and my role in the world as a change agent.
Before we left Kigali, we had a final rehearsal in the front yard of the hostel in Kigali. The play continues to improve as we increase our number of repetitions as a group. It is impressive that many of us are not trained actors, but have found ways to use our emotions to 'be' actors. I think we each are finding ways to use the play as a tool to process our emotions and learning about the genocide, which seems to add a powerful and organic feel to our play. We will likely perform our play tomorrow and possibly everyday for the rest of the trip. I love stretching myself in new roles. However, in some ways I'm comfortable with this challenge because life itself in my mind seems like a movie and maybe we are all actors (This revelation is another blog experience).
During this rehearsal time, we also prepared for our 3-day teacher training with Rwandan teachers. We plan to engage social studies, science & technology, and math educators in drama-based education, which aims to help teachers use stories to engage their students. Drama-based education has informed my own teaching style with much success and allows students to take a break from over intellectualizing their education. Instead, this style of learning utilizes the power of story to engage students in their learning experience. The challenge with this type of education is that TEACHERS MUST CARE ABOUT THIER STUDENTS. In other words, students and their stories matter.
This type of education requires teachers develop vulnerability and relationships with each student to allow students the freedom to create their story and educational experience. The beauty of this type of learning is that it reminds students that they matter in the educational experience and it can be useful in any topic area (even the 'hard' sciences) with any group of people (students, teachers, organizations, etc.). This seems to be opposite from how most of us were educated, particularly in the culture of standardized testing and the school-to-prison pipeline.
I'm looking forward to facilitating this training to share this weapon for transformational educational experiences.
**Belgium Peacekeepers Memorial**
Today we visited another memorial site. I imagine as a reader these memorial visits may seem repetitive, but for me, each memorial/site we have visited holds a unique message about the Rwanda genocide, history, and humanity. The common theme across each of these memorial experiences is that the death that occurred at each of these sites was senseless.
At the site, we learned of the courageous actions of 10 Belgium soldiers placed in Rwanda on a United Nations peacekeeping mission prior to the Rwandan genocide. The soldiers were underarmed and understaffed due to rules of engagement of non-engagement and reluctance from the international community (United States of America, France, Belgium, etc.) to bolster support for the Belgium UN peacekeeping force.
See this article for more details on the UN Assistance Mission In Rwanda and events that led to the deaths of the 10 Belgium peacekeepers:
The ambush by Hutu extremists and their accomplices was ugly (see photo below). The aggressors were equipped with assault rifles, grenades, and artillery shells, while the UN peacekeepers only had several handguns and limited ammunition to defend themselves. In other words, the 10 UN peacekeepers did not stand a chance and were eventually over taken after a courageous commitment to their peacekeeping mission.
This event would be the catalyst for continued genocidal events, particularly after Hutu extremists realized that the international community would not prioritize intervention to stop the violence.
Inaction is a requisite to genocide.
We took a 1.5-2 hour trip to Muhunga, a rural community Southwest of Kigali. In Muhunga we met a Rwanda hero named Mama Arlene. We sat in Mama Arlene's living room and received a brief history the Urukondo Learning Center, a primary school for PreK-6th grade students she created in Rwanda. We also learned that Mama Arlene received her name from adopting unwanted children in Rwanda for decades. She started with one child, which eventually increased to dozens.
As an educator, she has provided education for all of the children she had 'adopted' and opened up a learning center for other local children who might not have the opportunity otherwise. She now teaches about 700 students with a group of 32 teachers. These students are provided with a one of the best primary school education in Rwanda (rated #2 in Rwanda) and are provided with opportunities to engage in arts, recreational activities, and development of trades.
No lie, I had second thoughts about a white womyn being called "Mama" by African kids. This thought triggered my thoughts about colonialism in Africa. However, I held this thought lightly and continued to listen to Mama Arlene tell her story about her work with Rwandan children.
The reality is that without Mama Arlene's philantropic humanitarian work many of children would be in dismal situations and environments.
Mama Arlene is a revolutionary for humanity, which transcends racial separateness.
Mama Arlene can teach each of us a lot.
After a meal with children at Mama Arlene's home, we sang and danced with the kids! We will return on Saturday to perform our play and deliver the drama-based education workshop to the educators at Mama Arlene's school, the Urukondo Learning Center. We also will be able to spend more time with Mama Arlene to learn more about her story. I am looking forward to this learning!
My heart and mind are open to whatever is ahead.
On break from rehearsal!
Belgian Peacekeepers Memorial
Mama Arlene & Drew
Reuben Faloughi, M.Ed., is a fifth-year doctoral candidate studying psychology at the University of Missouri (MU). He recently defended his dissertation, which examined the effects of an intergroup dialogue-based diversity and social justice course on students' multicultural development. The course, now required for all MU College of Education students, was heavily influenced by personal experiences in the AFP/Dr. Kahn's drama-based education training, Division I athletics, the Fall 2015 student movement at MU, and other transformational life experiences. Reuben will complete his Ph.D. on internship at the University of Florida and graduate in Spring 2019. For more visit: