While so many young teens devote their summers to Justin Bieber, iphones and Xboxes, there are a few whose passion is to make a real difference. In the spring of 2012, 13 year-old Beatrice Perusse attended her first Amnesty International meeting in her east Toronto neighbourhood. She expected to hear about Amnesty’s large-scale campaigns going on all over the world, but she had no idea she would realise the desperate need for justice for someone simply down the street. That night she met Antonella Mega who, with remarkable calm and candour, explained that her husband Canadian citizen Hamid Ghassemi-Shall had been wrongfully prosecuted and now sat on death row in an Iranian prison.
Beatrice knew she had to become part of her neighbour Hamid’s fight for freedom. She was inspired by over 6000 cards and letters from children and young people across Canada that had been sent in support of Hamid and Antonella. With the help of Antonella, dedicated Amnesty members led by Kara Dawson, filming “coach” and media producer Ian Hannah, and a dozen determined kids on-screen, Bea set out to shoot a video for Hamid. She wanted it to show that kids understand something desperately important: that the adults who have the power to do so must act and save Hamid’s life immediately.
In Beatrice’s words:
“I joined Amnesty in March of 2012. I had always been passionate about human rights.
My mom suggested Amnesty International. I contacted Kara Dawson, our amazing coordinator, and my friend and mom went with me to my first meeting to group 123. It was a great experience. Everyone was polite, and treated me like an equal with valid opinions, despite my age. At my first meeting I also met Antonella, the wife of Hamid Ghassemi Shall. Hearing her talk about what was happening with Hamid’s case was a real wake up call. All of a sudden, a human rights violation was no longer a picture on a screen, but something that someone right in front of me was, and is, going through. We were inspired to make our Free Hamid video by the thousands of cards of support and concern sent to Antonella by students. It has been a life altering experience working with Amnesty.
I cannot imagine going back to being uninvolved and I want to work with Amnesty for a long time.“
Beatrice inspires us all to hope for the coming generation of young activists: she is passionate, articulate and willing to do the work to promote human rights. Keep up the great work Beatrice!