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KSC Community Supports Health Care and Human Rights in Rwanda

Students welcome their Rwandan visitors to campus (l–r): Kelly Christianson,...
Students welcome their Rwandan visitors to campus (l–r): Kelly Christianson, Mark DiIanni, Betty Mutesi, Dr. Aflodis Kagaba, Mariellen Breton, Alex Habibi, and Therese Seibert

Thanks to the efforts and support of a number of campus and community groups, including the departments of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminal Justice Studies, Holocaust & Genocide Studies, and Architecture; KSC Pride; the Office of Diversity and Multiculturalism; the Office of the Provost; and the Campus Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, several events took place on campus and in Keene in early November to raise awareness of health and human rights issues in Rwanda and support building a health clinic there.

Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Therese Seibert obtained a Class of 1939 International Education Grant to bring Dr. Aflodis Kagaba, executive director of Rwanda’s Health Development Initiative (HDI) and Betty Mutesi, project manager for International Alert, Rwanda/Burundi, to campus. They visited classes and student groups and made several public presentations to raise awareness of the need for the proposed health clinic and about the lessons the world can learn from the Rwandan genocide.

You might say that this rather surprising connection started back in 2008, when Dr. Seibert and six of her sociology students traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, to participate in a Peace Building Institute, sponsored by the NGO Never Again Rwanda, co-founded by Dr. Joseph Nkurunziza. She continued to participate in the institutes, and took five of her students to Rwanda last May. One of those students, Kelly Christianson, stayed in the country an additional three and a half weeks to teach English. She met with Drs. Kagaba and Nkurunziza, where they discussed ways Keene State could support the organization’s hopes of establishing a health clinic.

Begin pull-quote…Dr. Kagaba’s talks will clearly place the human rights challenges facing the LGBTI population and other socially marginalized groups into a global perspective. …end pull-quote
– Dr. Therese Seibert

From that initial meeting, the previously named campus groups and AIDS Services of the Monadnock Region and the Keene chapter of PFLAG began to work to find a way to build a clinic in Rwanda that would allow HDI to realize its goals.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Carolyn Keller suggested that this might be a good project for some of Keene State’s Architecture students, so Dr. Seibert approached Peter Temple, associate professor of Architecture. Prof. Temple welcomed the idea, and recruited four Architecture majors, Adam Beaulieu, Darcy Stebbins, Mike Kelly, and Fiona Laurie, to work on a building design. Prof. Temple and his students will travel to Rwanda in January to gather the information needed to produce a design for the proposed health-care facility.

When nurse activist Margaret Sanger admonished Keene State (then Keene Normal School) students way back when to "enter to learn … go forth to serve," you’ve got to wonder if she had any idea just how far some of those students would go to fulfill that charge.