A Letter to My Sons, Part 3: Uncommon Friends

Dear Alexandre, Dear Sam,

Sorry I couldn’t write sooner, fatigue got the better of me last night. We’ve just completed the second day of our three-day workshop evaluating human rights education activities undertaken by the participants. Today we spent most of the day listening to the main points of each activity. There were participants from Sri Lanka, George, Aruna and Lucille, who told us of a workshop that brought together people from four different religions – Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Islam – in order for them to understand more about human rights and how they relate to their religions. We also heard from Bernat and Maria from India, who work with teachers to develop school clubs where they discuss human rights.

Next up was Khan from Afghanistan. He told us about a workshop he held on how to write reports to the United Nations; these reports describe the current situation of human rights in the country. Before we took a break for lunch, Saru and Medan from Nepal shared with us the story of their workshop, where they taught young men and women on something that’s called “domestic violence against women.” That one’s a bit harder to explain. Not every family is one where everybody is happy. There are times when husbands and boyfriends hurt their wives and girlfriends, sometimes with words, sometimes with their hands, and it’s a problem that happens in a lot of places but people find it hard to talk about. A lot of women who get hurt find it hard to talk about it. So Saru and Medan wanted to tell young people about this problem so they could help stop it.

After lunch, Banasree and Lal showed us the journey they took to a village to meet with community leaders and people who work for organizations called NGOs; they helped to educate them more on their rights. And finally, Samson and Hameed from Pakistan told us about their workshop where they trained people from organizations like NGOs on being better at what they do.

So you see, Alexandre and Sam, despite some bad things that are happening around the world, there are some people like my friends here who are doing good things; they are trying to help people. In many ways, that’s the greatest gift you can give to others, whether they be friends, family, or even strangers. People help each other out because it’s just right to do so. I really believe it’s ingrained in our hearts.

You’ll notice that I called these people my friends. It’s true that they are “participants” in this meeting, but the reality is that once you get to know someone, to understand who they are and what their motivations are for doing this kind of human rights work, you can’t help but share a connection with them. It’s a connection, a bond that lasts once the meeting is finished and once we’ve returned to our respective homes. It’s the type of friendship that can easily skip a few years then be rekindled by an email or a phone call. As I said to my friend and colleague Bing tonight, “They’re a good group,” to which she quickly nodded. You’d like them too. I’m pretty sure you’d get the biggest kick out of Lal. He makes everyone laugh instantly, sometimes by his laugh alone. Tonight he bought an umbrella – I have honestly never seen anyone as happy as Lal at the purchase of such a thing, he was beyond ecstatic. If someone can get that excited over buying an umbrella, think of how much fun he has teaching others about their rights.

I’m off to sleep now. Je t’aime, Alexandre, je t’aime Sam, bonsoir.



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