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Students participate in ‘Human Writes’ seminar

The poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is a thing with feathers, that perches in your soul”.

A group of students shared their own ideas about the nature of hope at the Bermuda National Gallery (BNG) recently.

“Hope gives everyone a chance to be free,” said one student. “Hope lets you believe that anything can happen,” said another. One girl said: “Hope is not like hatred.”

The statements were made by students from Warwick Academy and Somerset Primary in honour of Human Rights Day on Friday.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) annually issues themes, and invites countries to integrate the broad themes into their country's celebration of the day.

The 2010 theme was 'human rights defenders who act to end discrimination'.

This year the Human Rights Commission (HRC) collaborated with the BNG education officer Joanne Ball-Burgess to hold a creative writing workshop.

Approximately 40 students and ten teachers participated in 'Human Writes'. The exercise asked them to explain what human rights looked and felt like to them.

The students also heard from a number of speakers, poets and writers.

Lucy Attride-Stirling of Amnesty International shared how her lawyer father was “disappeared” by the authorities of the day when she was a child growing up in Mexico.

“After two years the government changed and our father came back to us,” said Mrs Attride-Stirling. “Until that time we didn't know if he was alive or dead.

“I know that if Amnesty International had existed at that time, they would have tried to help him.”

Najib Chentouf of Chewstick recited a poem to the students about his uncle, Joe Wilson, who he said sold Five Star Island for ten barrels of potatoes:

The whole time he was singing

One potato, two potato, four

Potatoes make you rich; potatoes make you poor

The event was intended to provide information on advocacy organisations such as Amnesty International, Chewstick and Imagine Bermuda, and their work as promoters and resources for anti-discrimination.

Organisers also hoped to gether feedback from the students about their understanding and experience of discrimination, social justice and human rights.

Mrs Ball-Burgess said: “We hope that this 'Human Writes' workshop is the beginning of allowing our children to realise that as artists and writers they have the power to convey new ideas to change our community for the better.”

HRC executive officer Lisa Lister said: “There has long been a natural synergy with the arts and the promotion of social justice and human rights both in Bermuda and around the world and the HRC is keen to honour this relationship.

The arts have a unique capacity to raise awareness, and to provide diverse expression in support of anti-discrimination for all in Bermuda.”

She said the HRC intended to continue this model of workshop going into 2011, in addition to a host of education and awareness efforts with the wider community.

“The HRC wants to take this opportunity to thank the Bermuda National Gallery, in particular, Joanne Ball-Burgess, along with Lucy Attride-Stirling of Amnesty International and Gavin Smith of Chewstick for collaborating on this important initiative, which aims to broaden the minds of our youth, and all who participate, by embracing the principles of human rights.”

The first global observance of human rights occurred on December 10, 1948 under proclamation of the United Nations General Assembly.

For the last 50 years the day has recognised human rights defenders acting against discrimination, often at personal risk to both themselves and their families.

“Human rights defenders speak out against abuse and violations including discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence,” said Mrs Lister. “They advocate justice and seek to protect the victims of human rights violations and they demand accountability for perpetrators and transparency in government action.

“Some human rights defenders are famous, but most are not. They are active in every part of the world, working alone and in groups, in local communities, in national politics and internationally.”

For more information telephone 295-5859 or e-mail humanrights[AT]

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Published December 16, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 16, 2010 at 7:27 am)

Students participate in ‘Human Writes’ seminar

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