Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Witness to Genocide: The Children of Rwanda

In a recent class (one of a series sponsored by MCHE entitled Relating the Holocaust to Other Genocides: A Seminar Series for Educators), a fellow cadre member Dianne O’Bryan shared drawings from Witness to Genocide. I had been preparing a lesson for the class comparing/contrasting the artwork of children from Terezin with the artwork of children from Darfur. I decided to explore the children’s art from Rwanda as shown in this book.

As a middle school English teacher, I looked for resources that were engaging, historically relevant, and easily adapted for use in one or two class periods to enhance our study of the Holocaust. Witness to Genocide provides two short introductory pieces, one by Hillary Clinton and one by Richard Salem, that can be used to generate student discussion about the importance of sharing the story of the genocide in Rwanda and to show how art can be used as testimony and healing.
The three main sections in the book (The Genocide, The Children, and The Future of Rwanda) tell the history of the genocide the effects of trauma on children, and the importance of remembering as these children face the future. The captioned artwork supplements the text and acts as witness testimony and a healing process for the children. The simple, yet powerful drawings will engage those who see them and will encourage students to learn about the past and ways to help secure a better future for these children and other victims of traumatic experiences.
Witness to Genocide is available in the resource center at MCHE. Supporting lesson plans can be found at http://www.mchekc.org/lessonplans.

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