George C. Marshall Chapter
George C. Marshall High School, Falls Church, VA
“I wrote. Did you?” On December 12, 2014, over 50 students at George C. Marshall High School wore stickers boasting their achievement in writing nearly 600 letters for disenfranchised citizens all over the world in conjunction with Amnesty International’s campaign Write for Rights. The task was simple: write a letter. The impact, however, was incredible. The Marshall High School National English Honor Society (NEHS) members read about ten different cases. For each case, we could write a letter to a government official asking for them to take action, as well as a letter of solidarity to the individual upon whose human rights were being infringed. These cases involved women imprisoned under El Salvador’s ban on abortion, Prisoners of Conscience, and more. Over six months later, our impact continues to grow: one of the many women and girls imprisoned in El Salvador was released in February from nearly a decade behind bars; Liu Ping, a Chinese Prisoner of Conscience, was given the chance to visit her daughter despite having previously been refused; survivors of the Bhopal chemical disaster in India received an increased amount of compensation.
The work that went into our Write for Rights event would not have been possible without the collaboration of not only our NEHS members, but also members of other school organizations. With the help of the Social Studies Honor Society, Key Club, and various other students, we spread word of our event via social media and posters. During the letter writing, we had 10 “Case Leaders” whose job it was to inform participants of the people to whom we were writing. There also were letter-collectors, letter-counters, and a very talented DJ. However, the bulk of the work was completed after the event, when dozens of NEHS members spent a week sealing, addressing, and stamping the letters. After three or four trips to the Post Office, we finally were able to celebrate our efforts and relax, knowing that we had been a part of something meaningful.
Plans are in motion for our NEHS members to repeat the event this year. A junior NEHS member recently asked if she could take the lead in organizing a new Write for Rights campaign for our chapter. Chapter Advisor James MacIndoe told her he thought it would be a great idea, but out of curiosity wanted to know why she wanted to do so. She said, essentially, that realizing her letters made an actual difference in someone’s situation made her want to double down and hold an even bigger event this year.
We hope your NEHS chapter will consider joining the cause and picking up a pen. This year’s Write for Rights event runs from December 4 to 18. Logistically speaking, organization is key. The biggest thing we learned was it was hard to keep track of the 600 or so letters we generated. The letters also should be mailed in boxes so you don’t have to label and address hundreds of envelopes. Contact Hannah De Lucia at firstname.lastname@example.org if your chapter is interested in more information on how become involved with Amnesty International’s Write for Rights.