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Social work students participate in genocide awareness project

April 8, 2013

EAU CLAIRE — Several social work majors at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are participating in a national project designed to raise awareness about mass violence, human rights violations and genocide around the world.

The students are creating clay bones as part of "One Million Bones," a large-scale social arts project devoted to creating awareness of and raising funds for victims of genocide and other atrocities in the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Burma and other countries.

Dr. Don Mowry, professor and chair of the social work department, offered students an opportunity to fulfill a class assignment through participation in the project. Those volunteering for the project were senior Ali Bradway, Maple Grove, Minn.; sophomore Merissa Kane, Stanley; senior Katherine Reuter, Lone Rock; senior Whitney Ryan, Wanamingo, Minn.; and senior Ashley Schleppenbach, Stoughton.

The UW-Eau Claire group hopes to make at least 300 clay bones, which are being fired to a realistic bone-white color by Susan O'Brien, associate professor of art & design. Similar bone-making projects are taking place across the country, with the ultimate goal of creating at least 1 million bones.

Mowry has been making bones alongside the students.

"I am not an expert at making human bones, but I have a deep connection to what the bone-making process represents in this effort to eliminate genocide," Mowry said.

Through a partnership with the organization Students Rebuild, every bone made earns $1 for CARE International and its work with survivors. The collection of bones will result in an installation to be unveiled on the university campus April 24 at a location to be determined. The bones will then be shipped to the One Million Bones organization in Washington, D.C., to be part of an installation on the National Mall in June.

Ryan said the project is more than a class assignment to her.

"I was interested in this because it allowed me to be part of a project that would raise awareness of the genocide that still exists today," Ryan said. "When people think about genocide they often refer to Hitler and the Jews or Rwanda, but they don't realize that it's still a major issue today."

Mowry said he and two or three of the students are hoping to finance a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the national installation this summer.

"I'm not sure if the overall effort will achieve the 1 million bones goal, but the effort is well past the halfway point and growing," Mowry said. "This will be a very impressive and emotionally powerful sight to behold."

More information about the project is available from Mowry at 715-836-4435 or dmowry@uwec.edu.

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AH/DW

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