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Contributed by Jade Harcourt-Harrison (2nd place, U14 Amnesty International Journalism Competition, Thailand)
In Syria it is not difficult to find victims of felonious detention and torture. The conflict between the rebels and the Assad regime has had a massive impact on the country’s citizens. Thousands upon thousands of victimised people go missing in Syria: activists, opposition fighters, journalists, civilians and humanitarian workers. The government’s security police are persistently submitting innocent, harmless people to egregious detentions. These people are not political terrorists; they are not actively rebelling against the regime; they are simply helping people in this war torn environment. However, because of these selfless acts their lives are destroyed. They all endure inhumane, unacceptable, violations of their human rights. The list of atrocities is shocking.
These victims are…
Snatched from society
Dragged into the depths of prisons
Thrown into rotting cells, darkness swallowing them, concealing them
Shackled to the floor, like animals
Tortured, tortured and tortured
Beaten, whipped, sexually harassed
Pushed into water, no air, burning in their chests
Hung from the ceiling by their hands and legs
Finally, they speak … lies… but answers. They will say anything, to stop the unbearable pain.
An example of these horrific crimes against humanity is an anonymous victim who reported to the BBC about her terrible experience in Syria. She was at a peaceful protest when the army started to open fire; which led to a bloody massacre. She bravely stayed to treat the injured protestors and later fled the city. During her escape the regime’s security police captured her.
“I was subjected to torture, atrocities, insults… They were focusing on the psychological element – insults, humiliation – as a punishment because of what I had done.”
Her ordeal was far from over…
“I was subjected to beatings, whippings, electric shocks. I was detained in a single cell, it was a horrible place under the ground. There were three floors – and I was kept there for one and a half months.”
After these horrendous actions had taken place, she was confirmed innocent in a trial in the country’s terrorism court. She then managed to escape to Lebanon to a refugee camp, continuing to endure hardship and suffering. She applied for a resettlement in England and luckily, this was granted.
However, masses of Syrians are not as fortunate, despite the continued efforts to resolve the conflict and eradicate these crimes against humanity.
We must continue to support humanitarian organizations that are working tirelessly to help these victims of torture. We must not let these abhorrent regimes camouflage their guilt in deceptions and denials. We must ensure that the plight of these people doesn’t leave the media spotlight. As the old Chinese proverb states: “it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
St. Andrews International School – Green Valley, Thailand
Today me and jonah loot at sum bugs to put in ar log piyul mowstlee we loot undneef the bricks becus we fort that los of bugs will liv udneef thum for sayfdee so we lift thoom up but befor we evun think abat it so I said we need a buckit in cays there ar poysun bugs so we got a buckit naw we can get sum bugs in ar buckis then we went to find some bugs I fawd some bugs so put thum in the howtel I will thas wot I said naw jonah has fa wd some jonah said Im gowing to put it in the howtel.
Today me and Jonah looked at some bugs to put in our log pile. Mostly we looked underneath the bricks because we thought that lots of bugs will live underneath them for safety. So we lifted them up but before we even thought about it so i said we need a bucket in case there are poisonous bugs so we got a bucket.
Now we can get some bugs in our buckets. Then we went to find some bugs. I found some bugs so put them in the (bug) hotel I will. That’s what I said. Now Jonah has found some. Jonahs said I’m going to put it in the hotel.
Giving Nature a Home: @natures_voice www.rspb.org.uk
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
By William Martin
The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
On the 20th March 2015, staff and students at my current school gathered on the spacious sports fields to observe the first solar eclipse in this country since 1999. This was an excellent opportunity to bring students of all ages together to share their knowledge and the experience, from our 5 year olds in Reception to our oldest A Level students in the Upper Sixth Form. The school provided solar glasses for the students courtesy of Jonathan and Sarah Higginson, who kindly donated the glasses, in memory of their 10 year old son, who died in a traffic accident in 2009. George, was science mad, and especially loved astronomy. Consequently, his parents are raising money to purchase a telescope which will be placed in Williamson Park, Lancaster, for everyone to enjoy. The school collected monetary donations for the solar glasses which raised over 200 pounds towards the funding of the George Higginson Telescope.
This was a fantastic learning opportunity for the whole school, with most teachers just as keen as the students to be outside and observing the scientific phenomenon. It is important to encourage authentic learning at every opportunity. The students in the Junior School engaged in a great deal of research during the week in their science lessons about solar eclipses and a number of classes even made their own pin-hole cameras. Other classes decided to use colanders or telescopes to cast the shadow of the eclipse onto white paper. Senior school students wrote about solar eclipses in their English lessons after learning about how they have been perceived in literature throughout history. Meanwhile Physics lessons involved looking at the science behind the process of an eclipse and why they occur in different places around the Earth at different times.
Although the weather was not favourable on the morning, the school did manage to glimpse the eclipse at different stages through small breaks in the clouds in the build-up to 9.31am. There was a great deal of excitement and dialogue taking place about what was happening amongst the student community. This was made more impressive and poignant as Senior School students facilitated learning as they buddied up and mentored the younger students from the Junior School to provide further explicit explanations. It was a successful and important coming together of the school community with everyone being positive and optimistic despite the disappointing cloud cover. You can see the impact a whole school community event like this can have here.
The other crisp Sunday morning we had the great fortune to time our weekly promenade walk with the routine training exercise of the volunteer RNLI team in St. Annes. There are 237 lifeboat stations around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland and 346 operational lifeboats covering 19,000 miles of coastline. It was fascinating and inspiring to see these committed men converge in their own free time on a Sunday morning and in a disciplined manner prepare and launch such an impressive safety vessel.
I was surprised not more people were there to watch the lifeboat being lowered down onto the St. Annes sands and towed out towards the Ribble estuary. I guess in many ways it summed up nicely what the RNLI is all about though, focused on the cause and with little fuss. These men did not crave limelight or financial reward, it was obvious that they were doing something that they believed in and as Darren, one of the crew said to me: ‘the best thing about volunteering is being part of a team of people who don’t want to let anyone down.’
Without their volunteers the RNLI could not save lives at sea. These volunteers account for 4600 crew members, 3000 shore crew and station management, and 150 volunteer lifeguards. There are also tens of thousands of other volunteers that raise vital funds, awareness and give safety advice for the RNLI. In 2012, the RNLI made 8346 launches of which 3120 were in darkness.
This resulted in 7964 people being rescued at an average of 22 people per day. 328 lives were saved.
As I read more about the RNLI and in particular the St. Annes station and crew I noticed a phone number at the bottom of one of the information posters. Next to the number was a name and a notice to contact him if anyone was interested in volunteering for the station and crew. I took a photo of the notice on my phone for future reference and turned to my kids and said: ‘I know what my next Global Citizenship Award target is going to be…’
Post contributed by Karen Partyka
I follow on Facebook a page called Humans of New York and this site introduces you to different people in New York and they tell a little about their life. New York is full of a huge variety of people so there are many interesting stories and I enjoy the variety. On 20th January they introduced us to Vidal who is a young student. Vidal was asked who influenced his life the most, his reply was:
“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”
“How has she influenced you?”
“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”
I, along with many thousand people around the world read what Vidal said and was moved, shocked and surprised to see a young boy being able to articulate and understand what his principal was doing for him and his peers. As a teacher myself I thought about Mrs Lopez and what an example she was and how I could learn from her. The people who run the Facebook page then went to find Mrs Lopez a few days later. Her school is in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which is a very difficult area of New York. They interviewed Mrs Lopez about what Vidal had said and this is her reply:
“This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple, our scholars wear purple and so do our staff, because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math, and they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”
After reading what Mrs Lopez said my admiration for her grew. This is the type of person that young people should have as role models. Mrs Lopez is changing a generation and giving her students a chance to succeed. She is valuing them as people and giving them the respect they need and deserve.
On the page over the last two weeks more of the teachers have shared their own stories. It is clearly a difficult school to work in for many reasons but their enthusiasm, passion and love for their students was immense. This is a school community that needs to be recognised, these teachers and students need to be seen. During an interview with Mrs Lopez and the teachers they were asked how could the vision of the school be taken forward. The school said many of the students had never even left New York and the neighbourhood has the highest crime rate in New York. The school was trying to sell them a dream of growing up and being part of society and doing their part in the world but the students could not imagine this as they had never experienced the world. So Mrs Lopez said she would like to have a trip for the Grade 6 class each year to visit Harvard. It would allow them to see where they could go. To date, $1,204,537 has been donated, by people, including myself, from around the world. This has meant that the Grade 6 trip to Harvard will become a permanent feature in the Mott Hall Bridges Academy calendar. Here is the fundraising page if anyone would like to find out more – https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/let-s-send-kids-to-harvard
Mrs Lopez is an inspiration to me, she made me stand back and ask how I treat my pupils. Do I show them that I respect them, value them and that I am trying to teach them to play their part in society? It is easy to get into the monotony of teaching and become stuck in the mud. Teachers must always be aiming high and realising and understand that we are teaching the next generation who will be our politicians, teachers, nurses, social workers etc. We must encourage them to work hard, be just and always aspiring to give their best.
What did you do this Sunday? We decided to go for a walk around Fairhaven Lake in the bright late January sunshine. An easy walk for a family of five, especially with scooters in hand, you may even call it a typical Sunday afternoon walk. On this crisp and clear day we could see right across the estuary, probably the best view we have had since living in the area, with Southport seeming to be only a stones throw away. Seeing silhouettes of people out on the horizon and giving in to the allure of the mostly untouched vista of sand in front of us, we clambered down the promenade wall and headed out into the estuary looking for the mighty Ribble.
Pretty quickly we could see a strange and weird shape in the distance jutting out of the baron sand. It looked like it could be close to the river as the sand seemed to dip down just beyond the mysterious object. So we headed towards it to investigate. As we made our way out into the unknown and leaving the civilization of Lytham St. Annes behind us, Jonah observed that “this might be like walking on the moon.” Although, even the moon is not as windy as the Fylde coast! The closer we got to the object the more it began to look like a large skeleton, particularly one of a dinosaur – like you may see in a museum.
The dinosaur in the sand was in fact (disappointingly to the kids) a large piece of drift wood that had become well lodged into the sand banks and not a skeleton. We did have a good chat about where the tree may have come from though and how it had got there. It definitely created an eerie feel to the landscape, especially with the relentless wind filtering sand through the lattice like wooded frame. We said goodbye to the prehistoric relic and completed our mission down the final dip to admire the Ribble as it glimmered its way past us and out into the salty Irish Sea. Three tasty Drunmstick lollipops were freed from deep within the interior of the coat pocket as a satisfying treat for all, with the added incentive of being a psychological bribe, we turned 180 degrees head-on into the howling icy wind and made the long walk back to the mainland. We had a typical Sunday walk to complete.