Write a letter, save a life

Ames High’s Amnesty International chapter differs from the slew of other activist groups at Ames High School. Unlike Key club, SHEF, and Progressive club, Amnesty International writes letters to government officials in different countries informing them of different situations going on in their country. “We write letters that directly affect people. All our letters go right to government officials,” senior Haema Nilakanta said. Senior Spencer Arritt, the head of Amnesty International, directs the students to focus on issues. Every week, he informs the group of various problems all over the world. “Spencer updates us with new issues every week from the Amnesty International website, then we decide which ones are important and write our letters,” Nikakanta said. Each individual chooses a problem and then writes to a leading government official in the nation where the problem occurs. The group does not focus on one certain country, because there is always national support from Amnesty International, so no matter whom they write to, there will always be multiple letters. “As a chapter of Amnesty International, we know that people are writing to the same places about the same concern,” senior Felix Owusu said. “So it doesn’t really matter if Ames High Amnesty International all writes to the same place.” The 15 or so members of the group focus mainly on human rights issues. This year, letters have been written to Pakistan and Mexico, among many other countries. Recently, the Pakistani government wasn’t giving all the rights to a particular family in a kidnapping case. Spencer reported this to the club and then several of the students wrote to the Pakistani president. “I wrote to the Pakistani president about the case. A family wasn’t getting a lawyer or proper help,” Nilakanta said, “Their human rights were clearly being violated.” The Ames High Amnesty International chapter hasn’t seen any direct response, but the national organization of Amnesty International does follow up on the cases after letters have been sent. Occasionally, the Ames High Chapter receives word of progress made. “Spencer received an email sent by the national organization telling us that a woman that had been detained had been released,” Nilikanta said. Amnesty International’s different approach to activism has been a huge success with many individuals all around the world. “The things we write in the letters don’t vary from person to person,” said Nilakanta. “But it’s the number of the letters that shows how much we all care.”