Teacher visits with refugees in Rwanda

Caitlyn Lofland, Staff Writer

Passionate about human rights, Matthew Whipple, director of the Glenbrook Academy of International Studies, traveled to Rwanda during the summer of 2017 to tour Africa and visit a refugee camp. Whipple is involved in STAND FOR PEACE, a Glenbrook South club that provides aid to people in Africa. 

Whipple said after he and the group of teachers got off the bus at the refugee camp, they were surrounded by people. They were told not to give anything out to the kids to prevent mobs from forming as the kids had experienced severe trauma after being forced out of their homes. 

According to Whipple, he visited the refugee camp to make a personal and meaningful connection with Africa after helping those in need through STAND. The trip provided stories he could bring back to his students to help them understand the experiences of refugees better than if they had just learned them from textbook readings. 

“This little kid [in the refugee camp], he couldn’t have been maybe more than five or six years old at best, came up and kind of grabbed on the side of my leg, and when I looked down, he was wearing a Schaumburg Park District T-shirt,” said Whipple. “It made me think … the little things that we offer up that we may not think that much of actually matter.”

Whipple said he was in school when the Rwandan genocide occurred in 1994 and wished there was something he could have done to help the people in Rwanda. The genocide sparked his interest in human rights activism, so when he was offered the opportunity to take the trip to Rwanda, he knew he could not refuse. 

“There is something powerful about giving voice to those who don’t have it,” Whipple said.