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Making a difference

Local student one of seven who went to Rwanda under World Vision program

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Alana Robert had not been taught about the Rwandan genocide before she went to Rwanda this summer -- even though she was a world issues student in high school.

"The genocide? That's the year (1994) I was born," Robert said on the University of Manitoba campus, where she just started first year. "Learning about genocide is nothing I was ever taught in school."

But Robert was already developing a keen sense of social justice while attending St. Mary's Academy.

It started in Grade 9, at a conference "that brought together students from the Sisters of the Holy Name schools in Canada, the U.S. and Lesotho," she said.

That conference focused on AIDS, fresh water as a human right and human trafficking.

In Grade 12, Robert applied to World Vision to be one of only seven Canadian students to go to Rwanda this summer.

"From across Canada, there were hundreds of applicants... how we would make a difference, the career path we would go down," she explained.

Robert was one of the seven.

She travelled to the capital city of Kigali, and to a small rural town, Gashora, where she met families affected by the genocide.

"The memories are still there. We saw just how tragic it was," Robert said. "The country's beautiful but the mass poverty is really difficult to see.

"I definitely came away with a new perspective on the struggles people have to go through on a daily basis," she said.

Planning to major in political science, Robert wants to go on to law school at the U of M, specializing in human rights law.

"We have a really good human rights law program and we're getting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights," Robert pointed out. "I'm very excited for the opening."

As part of her World Vision program, Robert will be available throughout the year to make presentations to schools about her trip to Rwanda.

"Mostly high schools -- trying to motivate them to make a difference," she said.

"I'm going to take this experience and see what I can do in my community."

Robert can be contacted at alana.wvya@gmail.com .

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 J14

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