Empowering students to take action for human rights

Many students across Canada see injustice in their schools, their communities and the world around them. But they don’t always know what to do. That’s changing, thanks to your support of an innovative program called “Be an Upstander.”

The need for a program like this became apparent several years ago. Teacher Graham Lowes was helping his students learn about human rights issues, only to find out they felt powerless after hearing stories of human rights abuses.

Graham knew this method of teaching wasn’t right for his class. He wanted his students to feel engaged and empowered when talking about human rights.

That’s where caring people like you stepped in to help.

Three young upstanders share the book they wrote about equality. (CMHR, Aaron Cohen)

Be an Upstander

With your support, Graham (now the Manager of Education and Program Development at the Museum) developed a new method of human rights education that goes beyond just learning about an issue. And the Be an Upstander program was born.

By sharing the stories of human rights upstanders like Malala Yousafzai as examples, the program helps bring students from “bystanders” to “upstanders.”

Through the program, students learn to recognize injustice, know their personal strengths and use those strengths to create change — all key characteristics of an upstander.

The Be an Upstander program also wraps up with a special final project. To take what they have learned to the next level, students choose a human rights topic and create something to inspire others. Past projects have included everything from a graphic novel about living as a refugee to a fashion show drawing attention to lack of clean water.

These projects help the students solidify what they have learned and inspire others to take action through showcases where students share their work. It’s sort of like a science fair, but with creative human rights projects.

A Museum visitor interacts with a student’s project at last year’s Be an Upstander showcase. (CMHR, Aaron Cohen)

The Future of Be an Upstander

And the program is growing. Thanks to generous donors like you, more and more schools across the country are using the program and hosting Be an Upstander showcases in their communities.

Just this past week, an entire school division in Edmonton hosted a Be an Upstander showcase to highlight the work their students have been doing through the program.

A student in Edmonton explains her project about waste in the ocean. (CMHR, Jason Franson)

Thank you so much for supporting important work like the Be an Upstander program. You are investing in our future by supporting these empathetic young upstanders who are eager to make a difference.

If you would like to see the outcome of this program in person, we invite you to attend the upcoming Be an Upstander Showcase on May 23 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. You can find more details and register to attend the showcase here.