The University of Nottingham’s society “Aegis Students UoN” will be hosting an evening of open lectures in Clive Granger discussing the charity’s operations and goals as well as insights into what it’s like to have lived through and survived Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. In the aftermath of the Oxfam scandal, the event not only aims to inform about this specific charity, but also why a few bad apples should not make us shy away from this country’s longstanding charity culture.
I sat down with the society’s General Secretary Judith Barwise to talk about Aegis, the event, and why it’s important for students to be aware of history, even when it’s not pretty.
“empower students with the tools to ‘end the cycle of violence and restore trust’.”
Aegis Trust is a charity whose tagline is “preventing crimes against humanity”. The statement aptly encapsulates the efforts of the organisation’s various activities. At its core, the operations of Aegis include campaigning, fundraising, and crucially educating to work towards the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity in general. Perhaps it is most known for its model of peace education established in Rwanda, where it has managed to integrate its programme of peace education into the country’s national curriculum in order to empower students with the tools to “end the cycle of violence and restore trust”.
But the activities of Aegis extend much beyond local education and a lot closer to home than we would expect. In their network is the UK’s National Holocaust Museum which is located right here in Nottingham. This is part of Aegis’ second biggest goal which is to not only prevent genocide but honour the victims of it.
“the growing indifference can be a first step in repeating history”.
Judith reflects on the importance of the work Aegis is doing by remarking “every once in a while a conversation resurfaces about whether or not we should continue teaching about the Holocaust or any other genocide that happened a long time ago. This is a dangerous conversation because it can potentially stop atrocities from being spoken about and when they do, and the growing indifference can be a first step in repeating history”. The work the Aegis Trust does both preventing genocide and honouring its victims can be boiled down to this sentiment of not wanting crimes against human rights to be repeated.
Moving on to the event, the charity affiliated society is coordinating for the CEO of Aegis James Smith to come speak about what Aegis does, and “pad out a broader picture of where they fit in in the world of charities” as Judith puts it. He will also speak about the plans for the expected rollout of the peace process they are building in Rwanda to numerous other nations.
After James, Freddy Mutanguha will speak. Freddy is now a development coordinator at Aegis Trust and Africa representative for the organisation, but his backstory is one in line with the issues Aegis tackles. Freddy is a survivor of the Rwanda genocide, and his experience will surely be very insightful to students. Judith mentions how deeply impactful Freddy’s chat is going to be, stating that she’s fascinated to hear “how you can go from that type of pain and torture to working with the people who turned a blind eye to it in order to make sure it never happens again”. This referring to Freddy’s work in local Rwandan communities.
“the discussion should not centre on the fact that Oxfam screwed up, but on the thousand of charities that are in this country which continue making a difference”
Judith concludes by stating that aside from hearing Freddy’s story firsthand, she’s looking forward to understanding how the scaling process is going to work in different nations: “how do you scale their model into societies that don’t have a history of that level of atrocities, and how can you make it so that they never will?”
She finishes by saying that, if nothing else, she hopes the chat will start a conversation about the fundamental role of charities, both at home and abroad. In the aftermath of the Oxfam scandal she states that “the discussion should not centre on the fact that Oxfam screwed up, but on the thousand of charities that are in this country which continue making a difference”.
You can check event at 6:30pm on Tuesday 27th in Clive Granger A40, the entry is only £1. Additionally if you are interested in becoming a member of Aegis students UoN or joining them on a trip to the National Holocaust Museum click here.
Featured Image courtesy of Aegis Trust.