Thursday, 13 April, 2017

The HMD Youth Champion Programme empowers young people aged 14-24 years old to take action for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) through organising their own activities or events to raise awareness of HMD in their community and amongst their peers.

Applications to join the Youth Champion Board are now open for those wanting to take a lead and shape the Youth Champion programme for HMD 2018. In this blog, Niamh Hanrahan reflects on her experience as a Youth Champion Board Member and the ways in which she helped other Youth Champions mark HMD 2017.

For the past year, I have served on the HMD Youth Champion Board with a responsibility for International Projects. I gave myself two main projects to work on; I wanted to establish a pen pal system between Youth Champions and young people in Rwanda and Bosnia and I wanted to try and get photos from organisations from around the world to find out how they had commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day, which I could then show on our Youth Champion stall at the UK Commemorative Ceremony in London. 

The pen pal system has taken some time to set up, and I haven’t quite got there yet - but I am hoping to in the future. However, the photo project was a success and I'm very proud that I was able to show photos from HMD events in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Melbourne, Singapore and Johannesburg.

I have really enjoyed the opportunity to be able to meet and hear testimonies from survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. Speaking to them reminds me why genocide education is so important and necessary, and to have them be interested in the work I'm doing is really encouraging.

I have been to many events as part of my role on the Board in places like the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and I was invited to be a part of the Antiques Roadshow Holocaust Memorial Day special. I feel extremely privileged to have been asked.

The UK Commemorative Ceremony in London has to be one of the highlights of my year on the Board - I don't think you quite realise how much your individual work matters until you see everyone come together. I was able to talk to a really wide range of people about my role and what I've been doing within the International Projects. Along with other Board members I also spoke in the ceremony, reading words written by Elie Wiesel - which were also the inspiration for the HMD 2017 theme, How can life go on? 'For the survivor death is not the problem. Death was an everyday occurrence. We learned to live with death. The problem is to adjust to life, to living. You must teach us about living.'

The thing I have most valued about being on the Board is having the opportunity to spread the message of HMDT around the world and work on projects that I have designed and which I hope will make a difference.

I would encourage anyone who is interested to apply to be on the Youth Champion Board. You will have the opportunity to work with wonderful people for an incredibly important cause.

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The HMDT blog highlights topics relevant to our work in Holocaust and genocide education and commemoration. We hear from a variety of guest contributors who provide a range of personal perspectives on issues relevant to them, including those who have experienced state-sponsored persecution and genocide. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HMDT.