THE BLOG

A Day of Contrast

08/05/2013 12:39 BST | Updated 07/07/2013 10:12 BST
Amnesty

When I was asked to choose a human rights issue about which to write, I was intrigued and shocked but felt compelled to learn about the North Korean Work Camps.

I was sickened to read about the three generations of punishment inflicted on families of defectors or anyone who disagreed with the state. I tried to imagine what life must have been like for a young man like Shin (the only person to have escaped from a total control work camp), who was born in a work camp, who had never felt love, went constantly hungry, was worked almost to death and was not allowed to laugh or smile, let alone talk in groups of more than one other.

In stark contrast, as a result of writing about him, here was I invited to London for a wonderful day of hospitality, learning and opportunity in the company of a group of very talented, warm and interesting people.

I was honoured to have been selected to spend the day at the offices of The Guardian in the morning and the afternoon at Amnesty International HQ.

Our day, blessed by sunshine, started very promisingly with the warmth of our welcome by the lovely, Emily Drabble of The Guardian. Her refreshing enthusiasm for her job was infectious and gave us a taste for the brilliant day ahead.

We were given a brief but incredibly useful and informative lesson on creating a "Front Page" by Elli and I'm sure, like mine, a copy of which will be gracing the school of everyone in attendance.

After our transfer to Amnesty HQ, we were treated to my perfect lunch - a Pizza Express buffet during which we all relaxed in anticipation of the ceremony ahead.

We were cleverly seated beside our peers - or should I say rivals! - which naturally encouraged us to befriend one another and hear each other's stories and motivation for them. Perhaps it was at this point I actually realised that we genuinely were ALL winners - and that recognition of our work by Amnesty International was our prize. By virtue of us putting pen to paper (or music to lyrics, or camera to image) we had all highlighted an issue of which Amnesty was already aware and helping, to either, protect, abolish or condemn.

I was so impressed by the impassioned and compassionate reports and also with the talent of all the other young "reporters" there.

It is very heartening to realise that we are all in effect fighting for the rights and opportunities of people who can't do it for themselves. We are privileged to be the voices of people who are silenced through cruel regimes, torture or barbaric practice.

I am in no doubt that the company of so many committed people inspired us all to acknowledge the wonderful work done by Amnesty International and encouraged us to continue to speak out against injustice whether through writing letters directly to Governments or by writing articles such as those for the Young Reporter competition.

In fact, Kate Tempest (one of the speakers at the ceremony) put it brilliantly in her poem. She received a thunderous round of applause for her amazing work which she performed so enthusiastically.

To round off the day, the final entry for the Protest Song were invited to perform. So Gypsy's Anchor took to the stage and blew us away with their wonderful rendition of "Full Score". It came as no surprise that they not only won the prize but have been offered the chance to record their song in a studio.

So we can count the many ways in which our individual pieces of writing, photographs or music have combined to enlighten and inform countless others - friends, family, schools, communities, local papers - to the work of Amnesty and thereby plant the seeds of conscience in a much wider audience.

I sincerely hope that the day was a huge success for Amnesty and I came away from the experience appreciating how vastly different my life and the opportunity to live it is from that of Shin Dong Huk. I would hope that my success in this competition serves as a reminder to me that I am extremely lucky and privileged to have been born and brought up in a free country, where education is a priority. I am not discriminated against because I am female nor have I been tortured. Like all the other entrants in the Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year award, I have been moved to use my voice to highlight the plight of others less fortunate than myself and I appreciate how fortunate I am to be allowed to do so.

Thanks to everyone involved for a wonderful day.