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Canadian Excellence

Madelaine Hron’s EN460h Human Rights class
Madelaine Hron’s EN460h Human Rights class

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Madelaine Hron

WLU for GULU raises more than $2,000 as project for Human Rights class

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Feb 7/07

Last term, the students in professor Madelaine Hron’s EN460h Human Rights: Interdisciplinary Perspectives seminar engaged themselves in an activism project to fundraise for Gulu Walk, an event that successfully raised $2,000 for the children of Northern Uganda.

“Taking part in Gulu Walk was a spontaneous class initiative,” says Hron. “Many students had seen the film Uganda Rising as an extracurricular event, and were moved by the experiences and activism of Ayiko Solomon, a Ugandan student at Laurier. I agreed to do the nine-kilometre walk if they raised the money. The class agreed to raise $1,000 dollars in the four days left before the walk, which I thought was a rather ambitious goal.”

Amazingly – in a mere four daysthe class exceeded their goal and raised $2,000, and three members of the class even joined their professor in the walk.  

Gulu Walk is a project started by two Torontonian businessmen to raise money and awareness for the children of Northern Uganda. For the past twenty years, the Acholi people of Northern Uganda have been living in terror of the Lord's Resistance Army, which has been trying to get control of the region by force. Over one million people have been displaced into refugee camps, and thousands more are “night commuters.”

In the camps, hundreds of people die every week because of a lack of clean water, food and medical care. More problematically, children these camps are often abducted and forced into being sex slaves or child soldiers. To avoid this danger, every evening thousands of these children – as “night commuters” – walk up to 10 kilometres to the nearest town of Gulu, where they sleep in abandoned houses, in front of gas stations, stores and public buildings, and in doing so “rest in peace.” Gulu Walk aims to raise funds to create safe spaces of shelter for these children, as well as building schools, resource centers and also rehabilitation programmes for child soldiers and victims of rape and trauma.

EN460h is a class that explores how English students may engage with human rights issues such as censorship, tortue, imprisonment, child soldiers, AIDS and global health, refugees or the genocide in Rwanda, as represented in literature, art and film.

“But a large part of the course also delves into our responses to human rights violations,” says Hron. “We consider such questions as ‘compassion fatigue,’ humanitarian aid, the rhetoric of charity appeals and of course, various models of activism.

“That is, ultimately, the goal of this course,” Hron continues. “Not only to integrate human rights discourse into English studies, but also encourage students to apply their academic knowledge in real-world contexts – to live what they learn outside class! My goal as a teacher is to inspire my students and draw out their individual interests, their passion and their drive. It proves that we can all individually make a difference and that, indeed, each one of us can change the world and make it a better place.”

Members of the “WLU for GULU” team include: Emily Ballantyne, Alexandra Beiner, Taryn Bolt, Michael Brown, Danielle Carmichael, Janice Gill, Kristen Goddard, Mary Gregus, Fiona Jack, Kelly Koenig, Kim Kropf, Melissa Mawhinney, Rachel McNight, Camila Merlano, Serina Patterson, Shayla Powell, Jackie Rodenburg, Laura Scott, Matt Sinclair, Andrea Stewart, Erin Wannamaker, Jessie Wilkinson, Colleen Wood, Rebecca Yanyk and their professor, Dr. Madelaine Hron.

For more information visit the Gulu Walk website at www.guluwalk.com.

Mallory O'Brien
Public Affairs

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