Rwanda: A Life-Changing Experience

Student's visit to Rwanda inspires him to continue humanitarian efforts after graduation 

The Rwandan genocide  of 1994 was a violent event in which hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children were killed by ethnic Hutu extremists. Last summer, Weber State University political science student Joshua Redhair had the rare opportunity to hear from survivors and perpetrators of the genocide. 

Redhair participated in a summer study abroad in Rwanda, led by Stephanie Wolfe, WSU assistant political science professor. The program partners Weber State students with the nonprofit group Never Again Rwanda (NAR) through the organization’s Peacebuilding Institute in Kigali, Rwanda. NAR empowers Rwandan youth to become engaged in the community by strengthening their social and economic agencies, and helping them develop an understanding of conflict resolution. WSU students have the opportunity to learn these same skills while also making friends through cross-cultural discussions, and becoming educated about genocide prevention.

Redhair, who will earn his bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2016, will return to Rwanda the summer after graduation, having been invited by the executive director of NAR to serve a four-month internship with the organization. Afterward he hopes to continue his education and attend graduate school in Europe. 

Redhair actively participates in humanitarian groups and political activism at WSU. He is the membership coordinator for Amnesty International and participates in the Model United Nations program. However, he notes his time in Rwanda as the most memorable and significant experience of his undergraduate career.

“We were able to meet with a reconciliation group in a remote village outside of the capital,” Redhair said. “We were able to interview and meet with both the survivors and perpetrators of the genocide. It was a life-changing experience that is hard to put into words.”

Redhair says he feels well prepared for the future thanks to the faculty in political science — professors who have helped him achieve academic success and become a better student. He is particularly grateful to Wolfe, who encouraged him to become politically active through her interactive classes and provided him with valuable opportunities outside of class.

Wolfe said Redhair’s ability to connect with others and find the heart of important issues stood out to her. “Josh continually demonstrates a keen understanding of the world, and a strong desire to know even more,” she said. “His ability to work hard and his passion for learning is one reason that I recruited him to attend the Peacebuilding Institute in Rwanda last summer.”

As he prepares for his future of humanitarian service and higher education, Redhair will keep one valuable lesson in mind: He really can do anything if he puts his mind to it.