Both sides make their case on Pr. George’s term limits.

…  Vote “NO” on Question J.

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Mr. Baker. >>> Read more >>>Major scandal unfolding in PGCPS.  >>>  Rot at Upper Marlboro.

October 24

During the only public forum on Question J — the ballot question that would allow Prince George’s officials to serve three terms instead of two — the measure’s strongest proponent was absent.In his place, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) sent an attorney to square off against opponents of loosening term limits.While those close to Baker know how much he dislikes the term-limit law, Baker has refused to campaign for the ballot initiative — unwilling to attach his name to an effort that would benefit him personally and has failed twice in the past 20 years.Just over a week before the general election, there are no yard signs, robo-calls or e-mails to voters in favor of the referendum from Baker or any of the County Council members who stand to benefit from it.

Baker — who is running unopposed for a second term and will be forced to leave office after that if the ballot initiative fails — is relying on the “yes” vote recommended on the sample ballot distributed by the county’s powerful Democratic party central committee.

Meanwhile, activists who want to keep the stricter limits in place are exhorting the electorate to vote “no” through community e-mail discussion groups, public meetings and on the Internet.

“I think people understand where I stand on term limits,” Baker said. “There are term limits, and they are called ‘the voters.’ ”

Baker said proponents of term limits assume voters are not mature enough to make the right selections and argued that forcing politicians out after two terms destroys institutional knowledge and governing momentum.

“This is the most popular council in 30 years with constituents,” Baker said. “People like what they see.”

Opponents of the term-limit extension fear political entrenchment and say the ballot referendum is premature, coming just four years after the federal corruption investigation that toppled Baker’s predecessor, Jack Johnson.

Not one Prince George’s County incumbent has been defeated in the two decades since Judy Robinson and her group collected the 18,000 signatures that instituted term limits in 1992.

Gerron Levi, a former state delegate who lost to sitting council incumbent Derrick Leon Davis (D-Mitchellville) in the primary, said the political system can have a corrupting influence on any long-serving elected official. “The longer you are in office, the longer you are captive to moneyed interests, because that’s how you get reelected,” Levi said.

Prince George’s is the only local government in the region to limit how long its local officials can serve (although the Virginia governor can remain in office only four years and the Maryland governor is limited to eight).

County officials say that means more turnover for Prince George’s County than for its neighbors on regional boards that oversee topics such as water, transportation and planning.

“We are constantly being outmaneuvered by Northern Virginia, where that long tenure exists,” said M.H. Jim Estepp, a former county council chair. “There was a lot more I could’ve done for my constituency if I had more time.”

Baker said his vision for the county will take more than two terms to achieve. It took four years to “get used to the job” and craft the details of his agenda, he said, and he doesn’t expect his marquee education revisions and economic development plans to fully take effect until 2015.

>>> Read more Washington Post.

>>> Read more Vote against longer term limits, fewer papers of record in Prince George’s.

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Nearly 6,000 Prince George’s voters turn out for first day of early voting.

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Prince George’s voters got off to a quick start during the early voting period for the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election.

Early voting, which began Oct. 23, will continue from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. through Oct. 30.

The polling places are Upper Marlboro Community Center in Upper Marlboro; College Park Community Center in College Park; Bowie Community Center in Bowie; Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover; Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington; Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center in Laurel; Baden Community Center in Brandywine; and Suitland Community Park School Center in Forestville.

“Everything is going well,” said Alisha Alexander, election administrator for the county. “So far we’re very pleased about the turnout and we hope voters continue to take advantage of the opportunity to vote early.”

According to unofficial early voting results, 5, 817 people came out to vote Oct. 23 compared to 5,395 during the first day of early voting in 2010, Alexander said. She said that so far no glitches had been reported by election judges.

By comparison, Alexander said 2,727 voters turned out for the first day of early voting during the primary election in June.

She said voter turnouts are historically low during primary elections, and that the voter turnout on Oct. 23 is comparable to the first day of early voting during the most recent midterm election in 2010.

“This is the first time I voted in the midterm election,” said Cheryl Hackett, 61, of Bowie after casting her ballot at the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center on Oct. 23.

>>> Read more Gazzette  >>> Vote against longer term limits, fewer papers of record in Prince George’s.

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Election judge Victoria Rinehardt (right) of Suitland hands an “I voted” sticker to Dakota Martin, 5, of Upper Marlboro as her mother, Aisha, looks on Oct. 23 during the first day of early voting at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover. The voting precinct was among eight county precincts open for early voting to Oct. 30.

Alicie Popovici/The Gazette Election judge Victoria Rinehardt (right) of Suitland hands an “I voted” sticker to Dakota Martin, 5, of Upper Marlboro as her mother, Aisha, looks on Oct. 23 during the first day of early voting at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover. The voting precinct was among eight county precincts open for early voting to Oct. 30.

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SAY NO to  Questions H and J >>> Read more Vote against longer term limits, fewer papers of record in Prince George’s.

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Thousands of students without vaccinations could be barred from Maryland schools.

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More than 3,000 students in Prince George’s County are in danger of not being able to attend school because they have not received required vaccinations.

County school officials have been offering free vaccinations and scrambling to remind parents of the Oct. 31 deadline to prove that their children have been vaccinated against measles, mumps, whooping cough and other communicable diseases.

Starting this school year, Maryland public schools require proof that students entering kindergarten have received two chicken pox vaccinations, and students starting the seventh grade must have received the Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-attenuated pertussis) and meningococcal vaccinations.

Angela M. Wakhweya, chief of school health policy, services and innovation, said the school district has been calling, messaging and sending forms home with children to inform parents of the deadline. This week, the school system set up 15 vaccination clinics in middle schools, the category of schools with the most students out of compliance.

“We believe we will reach them by the October 31 deadline,” Wakhweya said.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene agreed last month to grant a 45-day extension to several school districts after superintendents raised concerns about children missing school because they could not meet the original deadline. Students are required to provide proof of their immunizations by the 20th day of the school year. >>> Read more Washington Post.

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OPINION

In the age of Ebola and other vaccine -preventable illness, Prince George’s County parents and others elsewhere in Maryland and around the world needs to move in with speed and take care of the children with the proper vaccinations before we get into the middle of winter etc. This is a critical for all children of Prince George’s County  in particular. Let us get this one done. CEO Maxwell should be working around the clock to make sure that all children in the county are properly taken care of at this time and in all schools.

According Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the director of its Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. He blogs about health policy that,  although vaccines are required for entry into school in most places in the United States, the government does allow for exceptions, like religious reasons.

In the last few years though, the rates of vaccine-preventable illness such as measles and mumps have been on the rise. In most cases, these outbreaks began with children who were unvaccinated. In a school environment, an unvaccinated child who has a contagious disease can more easily spread it to other children.

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Aaron Carroll

To combat this threat, some schools in New York for example have been refusing to allow unvaccinated children to attend school, where they might start outbreaks or make outbreaks worse. Several parents thought this was unfair and filed lawsuits. Just recently, though, a federal court ruled in favor of the city schools, citing that government has the power to make decisions that would protect public health.

The court made the right decision. Immunizations are important because they allow us to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Vaccines significantly decrease your risk of getting a disease if you come into contact with it, though there is still a tiny chance that you can get sick. When measles outbreaks occur, for example, more of the people who get sick tend to be unvaccinated, but some who are vaccinated can become ill.

Vaccine policy depends not only on the added protection that vaccines confer upon those who get shots, but also on the decreased likelihood that anyone will come into contact with the disease. This is known as herd immunity. It refers to the fact that when enough people are immunized, then there really can’t be an outbreak. And if there can’t be an outbreak, then everyone is protected, even those who can’t get vaccinated.

This is critical, because there are people who are at increased risk for communicable diseases but cannot be given immunizations for various reasons. Small babies are susceptible to certain diseases, but can’t be given all vaccines. The elderly sometimes have less-well functioning immune systems, and are at higher risk for diseases. The same goes for all immune-compromised patients, who are always under threat of infection.

We don’t just get vaccines to protect ourselves. We don’t just give them to our children to protect them. We do this so that all those other people are protected as well.

In 1995, the varicella vaccine, or the chicken pox vaccine, was introduced in the United States. Over time, more and more children received it. In 2011, a study was published in the journal Pediatrics that looked at how the program affected the number of children who died from the disease.

The first thing noted in the paper was that death from chicken pox went down significantly from before the vaccine was released. From 2001 through 2007, the rates of death remained much lower, with just a few children dying from chicken pox nationally each year.

What’s notable is that from 2004 through 2007, not one child less than 1 year of age died in the United States from chicken pox. None. This is remarkable, because we cannot give the varicella vaccine to babies. It’s only approved for children 1 year or older.

In other words, all those babies were saved not because we vaccinated them against this illness. They were saved because older children were. Enough of the older kids were vaccinated to grant herd immunity that protected babies from getting sick.

Widespread vaccination prevents disease outbreaks. This protects all people from getting ill.

But if some parents want their children to remain at risk by leaving them unimmunized, and those children get sick, the state has then to take steps to prevent outbreaks from occurring. In New York, one of the few children who developed measles earlier this year was an unvaccinated child. The state refused to allow that child’s sibling, who was also unvaccinated, to go to school. That child also developed measles. The school maintains — and it’s hard to dispute — that letting the second child go to school would have put everyone at higher risk.

“People who refuse to vaccinate themselves, or their children, aren’t just putting themselves at risk — they’re putting everyone else in danger, too.” he concludes.

Childhood vaccines are safe. Seriously.

Forgotten vials of smallpox virus found

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Vote against longer term limits, fewer papers of record in Prince George’s.

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Early Voting began on Thursday October 23, 2014. This midterm election is most important because you will have a chance to elect people who will represent you on local levels.

Above all and especially Questions H and J are disservice to Prince Georgians.  Please vote against Question H and J. In addition, elect Board of Education members who can ask tough questions to Rushern Baker administration and not sycophants as a result of on going corruption and misconduct involving county leadership.

Questions H and J  are couched in a group of Prince George’s County ballot questions that could be easily approved but are two pretty significant requests that must be soundly rejected: permission to extend term limits and to be able to reduce the number of newspapers of record, publications authorized to carry public and legal notices.

The Reform Sasscer Movement and other news outlets have long been opposed to term limits; we believe voters should decide when an elected official leaves office, and it’s a disservice when a strong leader must leave because of such rules.

However, Question J seeks merely to make term limits slightly longer, extending county executive and council terms from two to three — and smacks of a gradual attempt to remove term limits. Please reject Question J and spread the word. 

The county should either keep or remove the limits, not add a few years based on what leaders think voters will let them get away with. For this reason, We  oppose Question J.

Another less-talked-about referendum is Question H, a request that the county only be required to have at least one newspaper of record. Instead of the current rule of having at least three papers of record, the county would also use county-maintained electronic media for such items.

While this may seem minor, it’s actually a big deal. Legal information needs to be easily accessible by the community and, unfortunately, computers are not yet readily available to all residents. One only needs to look at the struggle libraries have encountered as job-seekers compete with students for free computer time.

In addition, the Prince George’s government is still working to regain residents’ trust, so it’s important to have independent carriers for legal and public notices rather than relying on the government.

The county’s disturbing request also would complicate access to information such as foreclosures, a major problem in Prince George’s County.

In the interest of full disclosure,  we recognize that computer access is growing daily. However, until that time becomes a reality — and until the county government website becomes an easy and reliable place for legal information and notices — the government owes it to county residents to make the information as widely available as possible.

For these reasons, Prince George’s voters should vote against questions H and J.

However, the other ballot questions should get approved with no problem.

Questions A through E

The first five questions ask voters whether the county can borrow money and issue bonds for construction and repair of public safety, library, community college, county, and public works and transportation facilities. The price tag is high at $727.3 million, but the work must be done.

Question F

County officials want the flexibility to be able to issue bonds in serial form or term form (they differ based on maturation dates). Put in layman’s terms, officials want to be able to use the bond that would best fit their financing strategy. It makes sense.

Question G

Currently, if the county executive leaves office less than two years before the end of the term, the County Council is required to vote one of its own as a replacement or the council chair fills in as county executive until the next election. Question G would let the chief administrative officer serve as acting county executive until action is taken. The alternative would be to leave the post empty until the council makes a decision, which doesn’t make sense, so we support Question G.

Question I

Although disability and sexual orientation are protected categories under state law, the county charter doesn’t include them in the list of prohibited forms of discrimination for county employees. Question I simply adds them to the list, as it should.

Statewide ballot questions

Question 1 involves the Transportation Trust Fund, a pot of money Maryland collects that includes revenue from the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. The fund was created to pay for transportation projects, but over the years, lawmakers have distributed the money to other programs to balance the Maryland budget.

The question would require the fund be spent on road and transit projects. The money could be transferred into other accounts if the governor declares a fiscal emergency and the General Assembly approves legislation authorizing the transfer with a three-fifths majority. We think these are significantly high hurdles and transfers will be rare, which means the money will be used for the purpose intended.

Statewide Question 2 authorizes charter counties to hold special elections whenever a county executive cannot finish a term and there’s a vacancy in the office.

Currently, if a Prince George’s County executive has less than two years left in the term and leaves office, the position can be filled only by an appointment from the County Council.

Choosing “yes” for Question 2 will be a step forward, giving voters a greater say in their county governments in those rare instances when a county executive resigns or dies in office.

Please vote! Nobody’s vote is more important than yours unless you don’t show up. Then everybody’s vote is more important than yours.

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Prince George's County

Prince George’s County

Early Voting Centers

2014 GUBERNATORIAL GENERAL ELECTION
Early Voting Wait Times

Early Voting is October 23, 2014 through October 30, 2014
Daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

EV-01 Upper Marlboro Community Center
5400 Marlboro Race Track Road
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772

EV-02  College Park Community Center
5051 Pierce Avenue
College Park, MD 20740

EV-03  Bowie Community Center
3209 Stonybrook Drive
Bowie, MD 20715

EV-04  Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center
8001 Sheriff Road
Landover, MD 20785

EV-05  Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex
7007 Bock Road
Fort Washington, MD 20744

EV-06  Laurel – Beltsville Senior Activity Center
7120 Contee Road
Laurel, MD 20707

EV-07  Baden Community Center
13601 Baden-Westwood Road
Brandywine, MD 20613

EV-08 Suitland Community Park School Center
5600 Regency Lane
Forestville, MD 20747

 Directions to Early Voting Centers

For more information, contact the Prince George’s County Board of Elections at (301)341-7300.

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Average Prince George’s SAT score declines.

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The average SAT score for the Class of 2014 in Prince George’s County was 1197, down 10 points from the year before, according to figures released by county school system officials.

This year’s students in Prince George’s County also fared worse on the SAT test than students nationally, who scored an average of 1497 on the college admission test that has a perfect score of 2400 for critical reading, math and writing.

The county’s scores continue to slide, dropping 77 points in the last two years.

Deputy Schools Superintendent Shawn Joseph said school system officials are trying to determine what factors are causing the decline.

“We’re still investigating the reasons why students performed the way they did this year,” Joseph said. “Our goal is to make sure our students do well on this or any other exam.”

Prince George’s students scored an average of 409 on the test’s critical reading portion, 393 on math and 395 on writing.

In Maryland, the average overall score fell to 1468, a drop of 15 points. Despite the slide, state officials said they were pleased by greater participation in the exam.

The scores for nearly all racial groups in Prince George’s went down this year with white students and Hispanic students seeing the greatest drop — 37 points and 22 points, respectively. American Indians, who were less than 1 percent of all test takers, were the only group that showed gains. They scored an average of 1076, which was 31 points higher than the year before. >>> Read more Washington Post 

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OPINION

As we have stated before, real improvements in a school systems take time and hard work. Miraculous sudden improvements as shown during the previous regime led by Ms. Verjeana Jacobs in student achievement was likely the result of outright fraud or a rigged evaluation system designed to produce desired results.

Successful schools share characteristics such as strong instructional leadership, a clear and focused mission, high expectations for students, a climate conducive to learning, opportunities to learn, regular monitoring of students and classrooms, and positive home-school relations (Levine and Lezotte, 1990). New research also ties collegiality and collaboration to positive school outcomes. Ongoing research into school culture, change, and improvement is finding that success is more likely when teachers are collegial and work collaboratively on improvement activities (Levine and Lezotte, 1990; Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991). When teachers and administrators work together, the level of commitment, energy, and motivation is likely to be higher and change efforts are more easily implemented. Obviously these elements are missing in many schools in Prince George’s County public schools (PGCPS).

Schools with professional collaboration exhibit relationships and behaviors that support quality work and effective instruction, including the following:

  • More complex problem-solving and extensive sharing of craft knowledge
  • Stronger professional networks to share information
  • Greater risk-taking and experimentation (because colleagues offer support and feedback)
  • A richer technical language shared by educators in the school that can transmit professional knowledge quickly
  • Increased job satisfaction and identification with the school
  • More continuous and comprehensive attempts to improve the school, when combined with school-level improvement efforts (see Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991, for an excellent review)

These schools feature helpful, trusting, and open staff relationships (Nias, Southworth, and Yeomans, 1989, in Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991). They also may have “a commitment to valuing people as individuals” and valuing the groups to which individuals belong (Nias, Southworth, and Yeomans, 1989 in Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991). “Within these schools the individual and the group are inherently and simultaneously valued.” (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991, p.49, emphasis in original)

These settings also foster practices that support success, such as the following:

  • Failure, mistakes, and uncertainty in work are not “protected and defended” but are openly shared, discussed, and examined in order to provide support and help.
  • “Broad agreement on educational values” exists, but colleagues accept the natural disagreements that foster new dialogue (Nias, Southworth, and Yeomans, 1989, in Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).
  • These schools are “places of hard work, of strong and common commitment, dedication, of collective responsibility, and of a special sense of pride in the institution” (Nias, Southworth, and Yeomans, 1989, in Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991, p. 48).
  • Disagreements are openly voiced more frequently and more strongly as purpose and practice are discussed (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1989, p.49).
  • The teacher receives respect and consideration as a person (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).
  • Collaborative schools have more satisfying and more productive work environments (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).
  • Students show improved achievement (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).

In these schools, teachers and others lead and work together:

  • “In collaborative cultures, teachers develop the collective confidence to respond to changes critically, selecting and adapting those elements that will aid improvement in their own work context, and rejecting those that will not.” (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991, p.49)
  • Interdependence is valued and fostered (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991)
  • Leadership is dispersed; many teachers are leaders and the principal supports and nurtures teacher leaders (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).

Collaboration is not simply a group of congenial, happy teachers. As Fullan and Hargreaves point out (1991), “contentment should not be mistaken for excellence” (p. 47). In collaborative schools, the natural give-and-take of professionals means that conflict, disagreement, and discord will sometimes occur. But, these situations can be worked out for the good of students.

Thus, collaborative schools may be a way to build a professional capacity for change, improvement, and success even in the most difficult urban school District like PGCPS.

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Scholars: What Matters Most for Successful Teaching is Collaboration, Not Competition.

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This is an important article in the Shanker Blog by two scholars at the University of Pittsburgh. They are Carrie R. Leana, George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management, Professor of Business Administration, Medicine, and Public and International Affairs, and Director of the Center for Health and Care Work, at the University of Pittsburgh, and Frits K. Pil, Professor of Business Administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business and research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center, at the University of Pittsburgh.

Leanna and Pil write:

“Most current models of school reform focus on teacher accountability for student performance measured via standardized tests, “improved” curricula, and what economists label “human capital” – e.g., factors such as teacher experience, subject knowledge and pedagogical skills. But our research over many years in several large school districts suggests that if students are to show real and sustained learning, schools must also foster what sociologists label “social capital” – the value embedded in relations among teachers, and between teachers and school administrators. Social capital is the glue that holds a school together. It complements teacher skill, it enhances teachers’ individual classroom efforts, and it enables collective commitment to bring about school-wide change.

“We are professors at a leading Business School who have conducted research in a broad array of settings, ranging from steel mills and auto plants to insurance offices, banks, and even nursing homes. We examine how formal and informal work practices enhance organizational learning and performance. What we have found over and over again is that, regardless of context, organizational success rarely stems from the latest technology or a few exemplary individuals.

“Rather, it is derived from: systematic practices aimed at enhancing trust among employees; information sharing and openness about both problems and opportunities for improvement; and a collective sense of purpose. Over a decade ago, we were asked by a colleague in the School of Education about how our research might be applied to improving public schools. Since then, we’ve spent a good deal of time trying to answer that question through several large-scale research studies.

“One thing we noticed immediately in our work with schools was the intense focus on the individual educator. This is prevalent not just among school reformers but in the larger culture as well, as evidenced in popular movies ranging from “To Sir with Love” in the 1960s to “Waiting for Superman” nearly fifty years later. And every self-respecting school district has a version of the “Teacher of the Year” award, which has now risen to state and even national levels of competition. In recent years, however, we have also witnessed a darker side to accountability, as districts around the country publicly shame teachers who do not fare well on the accountability scorecards.

“Accountability models find their roots in the discipline of economics rather than education, and are exemplified in the value-added metrics used to evaluate teacher performance. These metrics assess annual increments in each student’s learning derived from standardized tests in subject areas like math and reading. These are then aggregated to arrive at a score for each teacher – her “value added” to students’ learning. Anyone with access to the internet can find teacher rankings based on these scores in many districts across the country.

“Needless to say, many teachers, and the unions that represent them, argue that value-added measures of student performance fail to capture the complex factors that go into teaching and learning. At the same time, reliance on such metrics may undermine the collaboration, trust, and information exchange that make up social capital and, in this regard, do far more harm than good.”

They go on to explain why current “reforms” actually are counter to the coloration and trust that are most needed and most successful.

They add:

“What do these findings tell us about effective education policy? Foremost, they suggest that the current focus on teacher human capital – and the paper credentials and accountability metrics often associated with it – will not yield the qualified teaching staff so desperately needed in urban districts. Instead, policy makers must also invest in efforts that enhance collaboration and information sharing among teachers. In many schools, such social capital is assumed to be an unaffordable luxury or, worse, a sign of teacher weakness or inefficiency. Yet our research suggests that when teachers talk to and substantively engage their peers regarding the complex task of instructing students — what works and what doesn’t — student achievement rises significantly.

“Building social capital in schools is not easy or costless. It requires time and, typically, the infusion of additional teaching staff into the school. It requires a reorientation away from a “Teacher of the Year” model and toward a system that rewards mentoring and collaboration among teachers. It also asks school principals and district administrators to spend less time monitoring teachers and more time encouraging a climate of trust and information sharing among them. The benefits of social capital are unequivocal, and unlike many other policy efforts, initiatives that foster it offer far more promise in terms of measurable gains for students.”

They conclude by asking you to give them feedback. Their email addresses are on the Shanker Blog. Contact them and let them know what you think. Here is their survey. Take a moment and respond.>> courtesy  Dianeravitch

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Hotel Rwanda – Million Voices.

This film is based on true events that took place during the genocidal violence that erupted in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi groups in 1994. At that time, the Hutu military and Interahamwe militias killed roughly 800,000 Tutsis over approximately 100 days. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand.

>>> Read more The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation was founded by Paul Rusesabagina, the real life hero of the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda.

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