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January 11, 2019
3 mins read

Club Spotlight: Amnesty International UBC

Club Spotlights

No one person will end injustice, but there are ways you can do your part—right here on campus.

I didn’t know what to expect attending Amnesty International’s bi-weekly letter-writing event, Writes Now, for the first time. I thought it would be encouraging us to petition—not actually make us write letters! To my surprise, the goal of the event was to gather in an interactive space to take action.  

Amnesty International UBC is a student-run club that welcomes all students to support human rights across the globe. The wider Amnesty International organization campaigns for human rights through research, advocacy, and lobbying.

Ashintya, who runs Writes Now, Amnesty’s flagship event series, briefed us about the killing of environmental activists in Colombia. He handed us letter formats addressed to the Attorney General of Colombia, along with stamps and envelopes.

Social justice is for everyone

During the event, I had the chance to connect with Katy Ho, a third-year commerce student and the president of the club.

Katy knows some might think social justice is just for Arts students, but she strives to connect her business classes with her social justice work. She found that Amnesty gave her the platform to explore social justice topics she wasn’t learning about in class. “Everything overlaps in the real world, so it is super important to collaborate across disciplines,” said Katy.

A combination of discussion and action

As an international relations student, I study a lot about human rights violations, but never know how to get involved in bringing change to the world. Working at the UN or some other international organization seems so far out of reach!

Letter-writing offered that small, yet tangible, step that connected my knowledge of what’s happening in the world to what I can do about it. Amnesty’s philosophy is simple—combine discussion with action.

Talking to Katy, I learned that each week, Amnesty alternates between discussing current events and letter-writing, so no conversation goes unaddressed.

“Universities have a lot of dialogue, and we do too, as a club,” shared Katy, “But then we also push for action. We have considerable strength in numbers as a big university community, so we might as well raise our voice against human rights violations so we can be heard.”

Not just a club, a community

‘Amnesteam’, as Katy calls her group, is made up of dynamic and energetic UBC students from across faculties. “We’re all doing the same thing together, so there is a great vibe at events and collaborations.”

Katy was also part of her high school’s Amnesty chapter, so when she came to UBC, she instantly connected with the group. “Amnesty International is a recognized organization, so wherever you go, you will have its presence and a community.”

This could be a starting point for students who are interested in working for an international organization. Essentially, Amnesty UBC’s work is the same—the scale is just a bit smaller.

The sense of belonging to the wider community was echoed by Andrea, an Amnesty International Canada field worker who dropped in to welcome us to the Amnesty family and offer tips to get more involved.

Andrea was a member of UBC’s Amnesty chapter who gradually got involved with nationwide work. Amnesty International remained constant throughout Andrea’s education and helped shape her career, which involves regional planning for Indigenous communities.

From letter-writing events to big conferences in collaboration with other clubs on campus, Amnesty International UBC offers an open space for everyone to get involved with the larger organization’s work.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the club, join them at their next event ‘Youth, Power & Action!’ on January 26.

Remember, small actions go a long way if you want to make a difference in the world.