On Saturday 12th March I attended the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s Youth Champion Day at that Galleries of Justice in Nottingham. Around fifty Youth Champions from all over the United Kingdom took part in the day. It was a chance for us to share the ways we chose to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day this year, learn more about the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur and have afternoon tea with Holocaust and subsequent genocide survivors.
For those who are unaware, last year I was appointed the Holocaust Memorial Day Youth Champion Board Member for Scotland and my job is to contribute to expanding and improving the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s Youth Champion programme, and to liaise with all of the Youth Champions across Scotland, guiding and assisting them in their commemorations. For me, personally, the Youth Champion Day was a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and come together to celebrate the effort we had all put in to ensuring that HMD 2016 was successful, and the theme “Don’t Stand By” reached by as many people as possible.
One of the most inspiring and thought-provoking parts of the Day was the talk given by Maddy Crowther from Waging Peace who spoke to us about the on-going genocide in Darfur, and about the different ways that we can get involved in campaigning for it to still be on the international agenda. She also shared with us drawings that had been produced by children from the refugee camps in Chad. These children had seen incomprehensible horrors before fleeing their homeland and in these drawings they depicted deeply moving scenes of violence and terror. Almost all of the drawings contained depictions of helicopters, lines of bullets coming out of heavy weaponry and racial tensions. It almost goes without saying that these drawings were very troubling and deeply moving.
The highlight of the Day was definitely the time spent chatting to Holocaust and genocide survivors over afternoon tea. Their stories and insights are so important and it was definitely a huge honour to have this opportunity. Also, as a member of the young generation of Holocaust ambassadors, I think that it is especially important to listen and share these testimonies to make sure that they are never forgotten and that such horrors are not repeated in the future.
The Youth Champion Day ended with the presentation of Youth Champion certificates by Ben Helfgott MBE, Honorary President of HMDT. As a representative of the Youth Board, I was presented with one of the beautiful spoons handcrafted for HMD 2016 by Clare Twomey who spent a year gathering people’s thoughts on what humanity requires and producing a physical reflection. The phrase engraved on my spoon says “if humanity is in our hands it needs mercy”. This delicate and fragile symbol of remembrance and hope for the future is something that I will treasure and display with pride forever.
Following the Youth Champion Day was the launch of next year’s HMD theme which is “How can life go on?”. This theme provokes us to think about how people who face unimaginable suffering go on to rebuild and reconstruct their lives, and indeed their identities. The theme is broad and covers a range of issues, some of which are hard to reconcile with. However, I am looking forward to developing ideas of how to use the theme to structure Holocaust and genocide remembrance and come to terms with some of the more difficult issues over the next year.
It was an honour and privilege to be a part of the 2016 Holocaust Memorial Day Youth Champion Day and I am looking forward to exploring the new ideas the day provoked, keeping in touch with the new friends I made and working towards making next year’s HMD commemorations even better.