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Students to Share Rwanda Travel Experiences

Students to Share Rwanda Travel Experiences

Posted: February 17, 2016

Since 2011, Drew Kahn, professor of theater and founding director of the Anne Frank Project (AFP), has taken a small cadre of students to Rwanda to spread AFP's message of social justice and theme of story-building. Every January, the group spends two to three weeks immersing themselves in the country’s culture, history, and people. 

In recent years, they’ve visited genocide memorials, refugee camps, prisons, wildlife reserves and orphanages, collaborated on theatrical productions with Rwandan college students, and worked on community-building projects that pay tribute to the country’s 1994 genocide.

During the January 2016 trip, they did some of the above while also sharing their specialized drama-based education with teachers and students,

“This was a spectacular trip,” said Kahn. “Humanitarian Carl Wilkins introduced me to Rwanda eight years ago, and we used the country’s genocide to inform the work that we do. Through the years, our work in Rwanda has become more specific—more focused on teacher training, which is something our students do very well.”

Along with Kahn; AFP assistant director Eve Everette, '09; and School of Education faculty member Patty Recchio; six undergraduate and two graduate students participated in the three-week trip. Also, for the first time, Buffalo State’s photography and graphic coordinator Bruce Fox accompanied the group and created a visual narrative. Meanwhile, the students blogged about their experiences.


The campus has three opportunities to hear about the Rwanda trip from members of the student delegation:

Thursday, February 18, 12:15 p.m.
Technology Building 160
Molly Bader, a theater major/painting minor, and Lilly Inglut, an English education and theater major

Thursday, February 25, 12:15 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
E. H. Butler Library 210
Ashanti Bryant, a sociology major/women and gender studies minor, Dan Torres, a theater major, and Crystal Holmes-Smith, an elementary education graduate student

Thursday, March 3, at 12:15 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
E. H. Butler Library 208 
Tulu Fashuyi, a theater major, Sam Merriman, a theater major/philosophy minor, and John Latona, an art education graduate student



Kahn said the students brought a nice mix of majors, sensibilities, and personalities to the trip.

“It’s like casting a show,” said Kahn. “You have to have a sturdy group who can respond to the demands of traveling through an East African county and also be able to jump right into teacher training. They responded in such a beautiful way.

“I’m excited to see the ripple effect of our teaching training,” he added. “Our storytelling curriculum will eventually reach 30,000 students in Rwanda, which will help them develop conflict resolution and community-building skills as well as the ability to synthesize their country’s troubled history.”

While other colleges and universities send faculty and students to Africa, Kahn pointed out that none enjoy the kind of ongoing relationships with Rwanda that Buffalo State does. Kahn also had the opportunity to begin a new relationship with a school in Nairobi, Kenya, this year.

The annual trips, coupled with a growing AFP educational outreach project in Western New York, attracted the attention of the nonprofit Global Engagement Institute (GEI), which handles short-term, high-impact projects in developing countries including Rwanda. In 2014 GEI executive director Michael Grosspietsch asked Kahn for help in developing hands-on, experimental learning.

“We keep coming back and we’re strengthening already strong relationships,” said Kahn. “We’re looking into the possibility of making longtime teaching appointments in Rwanda, bringing Rwandan students here to study, and developing our new Kenyan partnership.”

For more information, contact Kahn at (716) 878-5521 or Everette at (716) 878-5559.

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