I was first introduced to Amnesty International in my ninth grade english class, when we were learning about writing and formatting letters. Of course there was a student who asked “Why do we have to learn this? Who writes letters these days?” In response, our teacher showed us Amnesty International’s website. She introduced us to their work, specifically their letter writing campaigns, and to the idea that our words held so much power. I was instantly captivated – ordinary people like me were creating change and bringing justice. I immediately knew that I had to get involved.
I went home and spent hours scouring the internet, learning more about Amnesty and what they did. I discovered success stories of activists who had been freed, and reforms that had been made. I also came across countless opportunities where I could get involved – from signing petitions and writing letters, all the way to joining a group or taking on a national leadership position. Jeez, that seemed intimidating.
That was four years ago. Since then, I have written and sent countless letters, participated in a Write for Rights event, joined my high school’s Social Justice Club, planned a city wide High School Human Rights Conference, spoken at a panel with a handful of amazing activists, and recently became a National Organizer.
Every single person I have met through Amnesty has inspired me in some way – from my fellow youth organizers, to my high school teachers who support our club (shoutout to Ms.Hodgson!). What inspires me even more is seeing the progress we are making – just recently, the Federal Court repealed the Canada/Us Safe Third Country Agreement, which Amnesty has been actively working to suspend for more than fifteen years!
Although we have come a long way, there is still much we have to do. The issue of human rights is such a broad one, that sometimes it seems completely overwhelming. Will we ever really make a difference? Does the work we’re doing have a long term effect? Or will it splinter with time? Every activist has asked themselves these questions, and countless more.
The way I see it, you can get intimidated by the world’s problems, or choose to stand up against them. Anyone can create change, if they care enough to do so.