Students’ stories paint inspiring pictures during countdown to massive human rights event

Tags for Students’ stories paint inspiring pictures during countdown to massive human rights event

News release details

Nasra Ahmed Siraj lived the first part of her life in Ethiopia and Somalia without access to clean water. Maltha Uwanmajimana came to Winnipeg from Tanzania to seek a better life and good education. Hayley Grossman was inspired to act against discrimination because of her uncle, whose same‐sex marriage was among the first in California. And Sydney Bell is happy to be a Canadian who can freely express and celebrate her family's religious traditions.

These Grade 7 and 8 students will participate in a media event at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) on Thursday, May 14, counting down to Pembina Trails School Division's massive human rights art project next week – inspired in part by the opening of the CMHR. Seven students will show off their art panels depicting what human rights means to them – a few of the 15,000 panels to be assembled at Investors Group Field on May 20–21 to form a giant mosaic highlighting children's rights. The Museum will display 99 panels from all 33 division schools at a future date to be determined.

WHAT: Media event countdown to Pembina Trails Human Rights Project
WHEN: 10:30 a.m., Thursday, May 14
WHERE: Canadian Museum for Human Rights, 85 Israel Asper Way
(Please come to Group Entrance)

"The Museum is proud to be a partner in this amazing event, because it directly relates to our core objective of spreading human rights education – which extends far beyond our own walls," said CMHR Director of Learning and Programing June Creelman. "These inspiring students demonstrate the power of education as the greatest tool for human rights, something that begins at home and in school. The Pembina Trails School Division is a shining example."

"The mere act of engaging all 13,000 students and 2,000 staff of the division in this child rights installation is in itself an act of human rights and equity," said Pembina Trails Art Consultant Cameron Cross. "We are thrilled that the Museum has embraced this project. Together we hope to continue educating students about the importance of human rights for all."

More information about the participating students is attached, as well as details about next week's big event at Investors Group Field, and children's rights content at the CMHR.

Participating Pembina Trails students

Nasra Ahmed Siraj lived the first part of her life without access to clean water. The Grade 8 student at Acadia Junior High School came to Canada in 2010 from Ethiopia and Somalia. She enjoys sharing her life story and highlighting the needs for clean drinking water around the globe. Her art panel connects to Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Maltha Uwanmajimana was born in Tanzania and came to Canada with her family in 2009 seeking a better life and opportunity. The Grade 7 student at Acadia Junior High School is eager to advocate for all children and the right to education. Her art panel connects to Article 28 of the UNCRC. 

Hayley Grossman has a personal reason to advocate against discrimination (Article 2 of the UNCRC). Her uncle moved to California 20 years ago, where he met his partner. In 2008, they were finally able to marry when California first legalized same‐sex marriage (only to repeal this right from 2009 until 2013). The Grade 7 student at École Charleswood School created a panel showing a gay pride flag and two same‐sex couples. "To me, this panel means that no‐one should be judged for who they love, and that everyone deserves love," she said.

Sydney Bell relates to Article 14 of the UNCRC because of her diverse family and their religious beliefs. Half of her family is originally from Trinidad and the rest from Great Britain. "By flying and travelling around the places where I have family, I have realized that everyone is equal," said the Grade 7 student from École Charleswood School. "I celebrate my family's religions and ways of life. Everyone has a right to express their religion and be themselves in any way, shape or form."

Rogie Guobadia feels strongly about the right to have a home. "I come from Nigeria and there are people who live there that do not have a home," said the Grade 3 student from Pacific Junction School. "It makes me feel sad. I made a house on my tile and a picture of a boy so that he can have a home to be safe." (Article 27 of the UNCRC)

Avery Anderson began thinking about the right to an identity (Article 7 of the UNCRC) when her class studied a series of books called Parvana's Journey. "This study made me feel happy that I have an identity, a name and a passport," said the Grade 5 student at Pacific Junction School. "Many children in China do not have this right. My tile represents someone without the right to an identity who covers her face because she is seen as a nobody."

Nicholas Rivera‐Ospina feels strongly about people's right to an opinion (Article 13 of the UNCRC). On his panel, the Grade 8 student at École Charleswood School drew people protesting in defence of this right. The son of immigrants from Colombia, Nicholas grew up speaking English and Spanish, then learned French at school. "There is a person on the bottom with the words 'J'ai el right' in thought bubble, which represents 'I have rights' using my three languages," he said.

About the Pembina Trails Human Rights Project

Picture this: An entire school division taking over Investors Group Field. On May 20 and 21, 2015 students attending Pembina Trails School Division will turn a football field into a massive mosaic highlighting human rights of children.

The division's 13,000 students will each create a single 8x10 panel depicting what human rights means to them. Then one by one, students in Grades1‐12, from 33 Pembina Trails schools will gather on the green turf as students place their art side by side. Thousands of individual panels will create a giant art installation unlike anything you have ever seen. Pembina Trails is the first school division in Canada to create a human rights art installation of this scale.

The division first announced the project and their partnership with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on February 12 (see video).

Although every tile will be unique, the cause will be the same. Each day, Pembina Trails educators work towards creating a true sense of community and belonging in our schools. They understand that these lessons must be extended beyond the classroom. The mission of the Pembina Trails Human Rights Project is to create a catalyst for change. Simply put, they aim to support a generation of students who are already thinking about social justice, human rights, and social action. This innovative two day art installation event will truly be an amazing and powerful moment, not to mention a first for any school division in Canada.

Schools will take part in four groups over May 20 and 21. Once the panels are placed on each day, there will be a short program with local philanthropists, Pembina Trails students and graduates — who will share inspiring messages on how we can all promote human rights.
A public viewing will be held at Investors Group field on May 21 from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has partnered with the school division to support this event to the public and participate in the program. The Museum will have a booth at Investors Group Field inviting students, their families and the public to learn more about human rights, children's rights and the Museum. The booth will feature a "graffiti wall" where students will be invited to write or draw their messages. Friends of the CMHR national campaign chair Gail Asper will speak to students during the final program on May 21 at 2 p.m.

Children's rights are featured in the Museum in diverse ways: 

  • The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international declarations about children's rights are examined in a gallery called Turning Points for Humanity. 
  • The same gallery features standing digital interactive "books" activated by pointing at the screens, including a child narrator and two video stories about people working for children's rights in Colombia, and a global campaign against use of child soldiers. 
  • The Rights Today gallery includes an interactive world map with six international stories about children's rights.
  • The right to play is examined in this gallery through a story about young people in Africa who forage in garbage dumps for materials to make soccer balls.
  • Spirit Panel artworks in the Indigenous Perspectives gallery reflect the views of Aboriginal youth about human rights.
  • A youth‐oriented gallery called Actions Count includes an interactive table game where players make choices about everyday scenarios at home and school, such as organizing inner‐city sports teams or taking a stand against bullies.

Media contacts

Maureen Fitzhenry