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Fund’s First ‘Anti-Genocide’ Scholar Heads For Rwanda

By Joanna Colburn

Note: Photos related to the work of Aegis and the Discover Rwanda programme are available from the University Press Office.

A Slovakian man whose family helped hide Jewish people from the Nazis is going to Rwandaas the first recipient of a new University of Derby scholarship fund to promote awareness of genocide internationally.

The University, based in the East Midlands of the UK, launched the annual fund for its students in January (2010) after being approached by Sam Boarer. He is a Derbygraduate who now works as International Co-ordinator for Aegis Students, an international student movement working to end genocide.

Now Slavomir Velebir – who is studying a BSc (Hons) International Relations and Global Development degree at the University – will be the first to receive £1,000 from the scholarship fund so he can visit Rwandaand learn more about its genocide.

Around 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days of violence between Tutsi and Hutu tribes in Rwanda, in 1994. Over three weeks next month (July) Slavomir will visit sites associated with the genocide, speak to survivors and meet senior politicians in the country's government.

Slavomir, 30, said: “Genocide is a subject I feel strongly about but it is also part of my studies in International Relations. I was very interested to learn that the University had sponsored this particular scholarship fund and I'm excited to be the first one to receive help from it.

“I know that my own family helped hide Jewish people trying to escape from the Nazis during the Second World War. When I first began looking into genocide as a subject it was a while before I even heard about what had happened in Rwanda.”

Sam Boarer combined studying for his Electrical Engineering degree at Derby with acting as Chair of the international group Aegis Students – part of the genocide prevention organisation Aegis Trust – and also established a Derby students' support society for it.

He set up the Discover Rwanda programme for Aegis Students.

Sam said: “When I was a student in 2007 the University of Derbysupported a research trip I made to Bosnia. Now it's backing the Discover Rwanda programme, which is set to become a model for how we might raise people's awareness of genocide that has taken place in other countries.”

Caleb Jackson, President of University of Derby Students' Union, added: “It is great to see the University and the Students' Union playing a central role in helping students with their humanitarian efforts.”

Professor John Coyne, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby, said he was proud to see the University's students and graduates' willingness to raise awareness of serious international issues.

“What Sam and Aegis are doing, now with the help of Slavomir and the University, is helping raise awareness of the importance of equality in society and ensuring that the differences between people are celebrated rather than becoming a cause for future conflict,” he added.

There is a strong volunteering tradition at the University of Derby, which has a Student Volunteering section within its Career Development Centre. Each year over 1,000 students get involved in a wide variety of activities at home and abroad.

As well as benefiting others, students gain skills and experience that might interest a potential employer. People can work towards a University of Derby Award programme which formally recognises their contribution.

For further information about the work of the Aegis Trust see website www.aegistrust.org and for Aegis Students see www.aegisstudents.org, or www.aegisstudents.org/discoverrwanda.