VISTA — Amnesty International traditionally raised attention to its mission of speaking up for human rights through its annual candlelight walk. After 25 years as an impactful humanitarian organization the group decide to change tactics this year, and hold global write-a-thons.
The writing sessions reflect the start of the organization that was formed in 1961 by a group of like-minded friends, who wanted to make a difference. Founding members began a letter-writing campaign to bring attention to the unjust imprisonment and inhumane treatment of humanitarian leaders.
Their efforts yielded success, with increased media attention, and government action to provide basic necessities, due legal process and release for numerous prisoners of consciousness.
“So many prisoners of consciousness benefited worldwide,” Alessandra Colfi, volunteer with Amnesty International Group 471, said. “Their captors knew the world was paying attention.”
In addition to promoting the legal and humane treatment of political prisoners, the group has also directed its letter-writing campaigns toward human trafficking victims. This has also raised awareness, and prompted change.
“We really can save somebody’s life and change the course of a region,” Colfi said.
Amnesty International has grown to 3 million volunteers worldwide.
This year global write-a-thons will be held Dec. 7 to reflect the year round efforts of the organization.
“People will write on their own, and also be gathering with local groups at schools and religious institutions,” Colfi said.
Locally, Amnesty International Group 471 will hold a write-a-thon at Rancho Buena Vista High School. The school’s teachers and students have been longtime supporters of Amnesty International.
High school teacher Erica Glennon has participated as a volunteer, and involved her students as a club and individuals for 25 years. Last year she was honored for her service.
“She’s amazing in motivating the students about conditions outside of Oceanside (where many students live), and taking them outside themselves,” Colfi said.
“Students can learn from (historical) past mistakes and change the future.”
Amnesty International groups in Ocean Beach and Hillcrest will also hold write-a-thons.
The event at Rancho Buena Vista High School will feature human rights defender and keynote speaker David Bu Dongwei, who was a former prisoner of consciousness in China. Dongwei will speak about his imprisonment, and his outlook that got him through the ordeal.
“He’s amazing and remarkable,” Colfi said.
His testimony will inspire a night of letter writing for current political prisoners. Background on prisoners and addresses to contact government officials will be provided to participants.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, writer and former prisoner of consciousness of Kenya, and Enrique Morones, human rights defender and event presenter, will also speak.
Last year the annual candlelight walk held at the Oceanside Pier drew 1,200 participants.
Colfi said 300 people are expected to attend the first write-a-thon, which will be held in the school theater as an open house that allows participants to come and go. Refreshments and music will part of the evening.
The write-a-thon at Rancho Buena Vista High School will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 7. For more information on the event visit www.facebook.com/Amnesty471.