Pupil learns a letter can change a life

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 January, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 January, 2001, 12:00am

I never believed that my opinion could make a difference - that is, not until I stepped into Room 417.

Two years ago, I was into my second year at Hong Kong International School.

Like many other students at that age, nothing else mattered to me except my social life. I was oblivious to what was going on around me.

Our school is very involved with club activities and every morning, time is allowed for club meetings.

During this time, I would always head down to the cafeteria with friends and catch up with the latest gossip.

The thought of joining a club never even crossed my mind until one day I was pulled into Room 417, one of the meeting rooms.

I was given a blank piece of paper, an envelope, another sheet filled with notes and a pencil. As I stared blankly at the materials, older students filed into the room. At one point, there were so many students that some had to sit on the floor and on the counters.

'Here, do you need this?' Someone passed me a handout that was titled 'What is Amnesty?'

It was that sheet that inspired me to believe in Amnesty International's objectives. I could have returned all the materials and left the room without thinking back on what had happened; but after reading that piece of paper, I no longer felt the urge to leave.

Now there was something more important than amusing myself with friends.

I became deeply concerned for the life of Pedro Pablo. He was indicted, abducted, beaten, threatened with death and forced into an indoctrination programme. If I had walked out of Room 417, then I would also have closed one more door of hope on the man's life.

Two years later, I am in that same room, but this time, as the president of the Amnesty Inter national Club. I lead the 100 or so members at the school which boasts the largest active group in Hong Kong. It is now my turn to encourage younger students to participate in this worthy cause.

I have since written endless letters to various countries attempting to prevent the violation of human rights. I have organised school fund-raisers to pay for our stamps and envelopes. I have led over 250 people in the annual Amnesty walkathon for two consecutive years. With my outreach programme, I have motivated other local and international schools to set up their own Amnesty International clubs.

It was my dream to lead the Amnesty Club because I wanted to show that a letter could change someone's life. I aim to continue publicising Amnesty's work, recruiting new members and forever keeping my door open to hope.

Yancisca is the chairman of Hong Kong International School's Amnesty International Club