Amnesty International to hold community write-a-thon

REGION — On Dec. 6, the North County Amnesty International chapter will meet with students and community members at Rancho Buena Vista High School for a three-hour letter write-a-thon and recognition ceremony in honor of International Human Rights Day.

The Amnesty International civil rights group has been quietly and steadfastly standing up against social injustices for more than half a century.

The nonprofit group began as a grassroots effort in London in 1963, and launched a letter writing campaign to oppose injustices against humanity. The simple, effective means to bring about change is still followed by the group.

“It’s really a wonderful opportunity to give everyone a simple tool to make a difference in people’s lives around the world just by writing letters,” Alessandra Colfi, Amnesty International volunteer, said.

Participants at the write-a-thon will be informed of current civil rights violation cases for which they can write opposition letters, and be given paper and pen to do so. Letters are sent to leaders worldwide, and include injustices in the United States.

The group hopes to write 2,000 letters that evening.

Colfi said efforts truly make a difference. Recently Amnesty International heard from a blogger in Saudi Arabia, who said letters sent in protest to his flogging stopped it from happening.

“It’s a good example of how these letters do change people’s lives,” Colfi said. “They spare them from more severe circumstances.”

The evening features entertainment, refreshments and uplifting keynote speakers who have survived social injustices.

This year’s speaker is Nguyen Van Hai, also known as Dieu Cay, a blogger, cofounder of the Free Journalists Club and former Vietnam prisoner of conscience. He was released and exiled to the United States last year after serving four years of a 12-year sentence for propaganda against the state.

Additionally, the Digna Ochoa Human Rights Defender Award will be bestowed to the Alliance for African Assistance, for 26 years of work in assisting 8,000 refugees in their resettlement. Walter Lam, a former Uganda refugee and founder of the nonprofit, will accept the award.

A new addition to the annual gathering is the student Burst of Conscience Award. It will be awarded to a student who has served as an inspiring light. The award is dedicated to Robert Ross, Amnesty International co-founder.

This is the second year the global write-a-thon has been held by Amnesty International chapters around the world. Last year 3 million letters were written in one day.

The North County Amnesty International chapter write-a-thon will be held Dec. 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Buena Vista High School, 1601 Longhorn Drive, Vista. For more information see the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Amnesty471.

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