Maples Collegiate’s Amnesty International group (Maples Amnesty) was initiated in September, 2006. It was inaugurated not only as a vehicle to allow students to explore the depth and breadth of the world’s disparity, but to provide an opportunity to advocate for justice through unique campaigns, such as letter-writing and fundraisers. The group’s most important goals have been to raise awareness of the parallels among injustices locally, as well as globally through campaigns and monthly newsletters. Often when advocating for the underprivileged, many of us think far beyond our own borders, overlooking the need to promote a life of integrity in our own neighbourhoods. However, Maples Amnesty is a group that realizes the universal importance of advocating for human beings everywhere.
I owe my inspiration for initiating an Amnesty International branch at my high school to one of the most defining experiences of my life, thus far, which was growing up in India for approximately four years of my childhood. Oftentimes, media labels India as a country full of paradoxes; my experience can certainly testify to the claim. Despite its immense economic prowess, and vast cultural diversity, one cannot help but be astonished by the poverty-stricken conditions that define much of the country. I can vividly recall roadsides being completely enshrouded with the most vulnerable citizens of a country so powerful and little children wandering deprived of the most basic necessities of everyday life, such as food, clothing, and shelter. It was with gratitude to this experience that I was compelled to help the less fortunate in my own way and to become involved with a greater cause such as Amnesty International.
In its initial two years, the school’s Amnesty International group experienced great challenges in becoming established, though success wasn’t too far out of reach. One of greatest difficulties was tackling a widespread sense of apathy with the student body. However, with support from staff and constant advertising through posters and announcements, a group of students with a genuine interest and passion was recruited.
In its first year, on December 13, 2006, the group made its debut by campaigning against the crisis in the Sudan with speakers and letters addressed to the President and Commander-in-Chief of Sudan’s Armed Forces. The next focus was child labour. During the anti-child labour campaign, Maples Amnesty launched the first issue of its monthly newsletters which raised awareness on the evil impact of child labour. It was also accompanied with letter-writing to our constituency’s former Member of Parliament, Judy Wasylycia-Leis who took the issue further to the House of Commons and prompted the federal government to review its policies. In 2007, the group started with an awareness campaign on the crisis in Burma, followed by an anti-landmine campaign where representatives of the Canadian Landmine Foundation (CLF) spoke about the globally pervasive issue. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, who advocated against landmines during his years in federal politics, wrote the opening message for the November issue of the newsletter. During the campaign, a fundraiser for the CLF was also organized. One of Maples Amnesty’s greatest successes was the Women Empowerment campaign which shed light not only on injustices against women across the world and at home, but it also gave a sense of hope by focusing on the limitless possibilities that exist for women and girls to realize their potential and purpose, especially as personified by the numerous inspiring women of Maples Collegiate. The highlights of this campaign were a fundraiser for a local charity, the Laurel Centre, and a petition for the Safe Schools campaign for young girls in Bangladesh.
Maples Collegiate Amnesty International hopes to continue with equal motivation and success this year. And invites you to join in to support its mission of “being the voices of the oppressed and unheard, and to shed light on severe human rights issues, locally and globally, that prevent individuals from enjoying the most basic rights that enable and empower one to live and enjoy life to its fullest potential.”
On a more personal note, I would like to thank Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Allard, Miss Johnson, as well as the secretarial staff for being ever so supportive and instrumental in all my efforts from starting the branch to organizing campaigns. I appreciate your guidance and wisdom with respect to how to best uphold my vision for the group, along with the freedom to have used the provisions of the office (ie. photocopier and PA system) to its fullest capacity! Lastly, I thank all the passionate students who are currently continuing the tradition of Amnesty International at Maples Collegiate along with those who are yet to come. I wish you all the very best as you advocate for the dignity of the less fortunate, and in your pursuit towards establishing a more harmonious world.
Keep the candle burning!
Founder of Maples Amenesty