Politics Course Inspires Student’s Interest in Rwanda

Posted: December 21, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: December 18, 2009 at 2:12 pm

By Leah Kerkman Fogarty

Emma Yoder

Emma Yoder. Photo courtesy of Emma Yoder

While most people are out running last-minute holiday errands, Mason senior Emma Yoder will be figuring out what kind of malaria medication to take. That’s because she is heading to Rwanda in January for a four-month-long internship with Never Again Rwanda, a youth peace-building nonprofit organization.

There she will be an advocacy intern for the Rwandan-based nongovernmental organization. Yoder, who graduates this month with a degree in government and international politics, will be helping to create a handbook for an initiative called FPA, which stands for Focus, Pressure and Action — basically a democracy- and peace-building program aimed at Rwandan youth.

“It will concentrate on university and secondary students,” explains Yoder. “The initiative will show them how to focus on an issue that’s important to them; apply pressure to people that are in power; and then take action in the community through petitions, radio talks and peaceful rallies.”

Yoder has been fascinated with Rwanda ever since she took Introduction to International Politics her freshman year at Mason.

“We learned about the genocide in Rwanda compared with other conflicts, like in Somalia,” she says. “I just found it really interesting and have been reading about it for the past four years.”

For the past couple of years, she has been researching internship opportunities in Rwanda. She will be living in the capital city of Kigali, a city with a population of about one million people. She hopes that this internship will lead her to a career in international development, specifically in Africa.

Yoder — who says this trip is her first international travel experience — is understandably both nervous and excited about her impending trip.

“I found out I got this internship on Sept. 23, and I haven’t stopped preparing for it since,” she says. “I was nervous for awhile, but I’ve done a lot of research, so I feel more secure now.”

Because the internship is unpaid, Yoder has been collecting funds to pay for travel expenses. So far, she’s raised nearly $2,000 to defray expenses, but about $3,000 more is needed to pay for pricey medication, supplies and her return airplane ticket.

To learn more about Yoder’s trip, visit her web site, sendmetorwanda.weebly.com, or follow her on twitter.

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