In Maha’s words:
I first found Amnesty International through an online posting for a youth council in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I was 15, had never heard of AI before, and was just looking for a worthwhile place to get my volunteer hours for high school. I was always passionate about social justice.
However, AI gave me the opportunity to meet the most supportive and incredible student activists and staff and learn much more about human rights issues. Knowing my work could save lives couldn’t have been more worthwhile!
I started out with simple campaign actions – petitioning, going to AITO events, letter-writing and meeting with the GTA youth council. In 2017, I went to the Human Rights College and AGM in Calgary, which was a really great training event that enabled me to do a lot more as a youth activist. I was happy to find out about a small AI section in my hometown. However, after I attended a meeting in Ajax I was concerned as everyone else was probably three times my age. To counter this, I contacted one of the leaders and worked with her that summer to create a youth group for the Durham region. A few other girls from the GTA group and I were also working on a project called The Matchstick, a human rights newspaper by youth, for youth. I moved to Montreal in the fall for University and joined AI’s chapter at McGill. In May 2018, I had the privilege of representing AI Canada at AI’s first international youth summit in Nairobi, Kenya. Now, I’m working on re-establishing NYAAC, the National Youth Action and Advisory Committee. Young activists have a spark-like energy and unwavering persistence that I find so uplifting – I couldn’t be more content working to make sure they’re effectively included in AI’s human rights movement.
It can sometimes feel very overwhelming and disheartening to keep hearing news of human rights violations despite all the effort you’re putting in. So when you read about the small success stories, it can make a huge difference! A prisoner of conscience finally being released, a change to a discriminatory law being made, or seeing that the letters you wrote made someone feel safer and heard. They’re a reminder that my volunteer work can have a real and meaningful impact. It teaches you so much more than being globally informed; joining AI has taught me (and is still teaching me) to be a more humble, empathetic, and resilient person.