A Candle of Light in the Cursed Darkness

An account on the Amnesty International Summer Lab, 2017.

Olivia, Editor

Amnesty International is a non-governmental organization focused on human rights. It believes that inspiring people against injustice in order to bring them closer to human rights is the key to achieving peace. With over 7 million activists in over 150 countries, the organization is extending its hand into all corners of the globe so that their goals can be achieved.

This summer, I was lucky enough to receive the opportunity to be a part of the Amnesty Experience and learn what it truly means to be a Human Rights’ Activist at the annual summer Amnesty Lab, located in Passignano, Umbria. Having had a considerably low amount of knowledge on this organization prior to the camp, my expectations were low and I had no idea of what would be in store for me.

From day one of my arrival I was welcomed with open arms by not only the staff and coordinators of Amnesty itself but from all the other participants there with me too. Each and every one of them had come from a different part of Italy and in addition to the local food they had been asked to bring as a symbol of their regions: they each brought an entirely unique set of qualities along with them too. Never had I felt so at home in a place so far away from Milan. And never have I ever met so many fascinating yet friendly Italians. All of the participants were aged between 14 and 19. There were a large number of vegetarians, almost half were of bisexual or homosexual orientation, and three of them had migrated all the way from different countries in Africa and were now living in the city of Florence. Considering myself quite a sheltered person, who has only ever mixed  with people of different nationalities at a private school, acquiring the opportunity to mix with such a range of people really opened my mind to a whole new world.

Throughout the week we were given a series of lectures on different topics that Amnesty is fighting for today. We listened to the migrants’ stories and were given the chance to meet a number of different individuals and learn about their stories about living with what our modern world calls “diverse characteristics” in their everyday lives. As well as sitting and listening, the staff tested our knowledge by setting us presentations, projects, and best of all, real-life role-play games. One of the games was Amnesty’s twist on the Stanford Prison Experiment, which took place in 1971 and consisted of people taking on the roles of prisoners and guards, and treating each other according to the personalities they were given. I myself was given the role of a prisoner. Along with two other girls, I was put in a cell right from the beginning and didn’t even get the chance to be properly questioned or have a say in anything the guards did to me: I was even left without water for three hours! Apart from being put under harsh conditions, the participants who took on roles as police officers and guards really proved what power can do to someone when it goes to their heads: at one point in the game I forgot it was for play and actually feared for my life. However, this game was an important lesson to all of us about the way humans treat one another in this day and age, and I was glad to be a part of it.

Besides learning about our world and what we can do to become activists of human rights, I made a lot of strong friendships. In the span of one week, we had become a family. Through the games we played and the situations we were put into; our love for one another grew more than the love I have for people I’ve known my entire life. The Amnesty International Summer Lab is a once in a lifetime experience and I highly recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in human equality.

I left as a person, and I returned as an activist: prepared to share my love and my ideas with as many people as possible.