Night for Rights: When you give, you are investing in millions of innocent people

“When you give, you are not investing in 50 journalists. You are investing in millions of innocent people in South Sudan,” David de Dau, JHR’s program manager in South Sudan, said to 2015 Night for Rights attendees.
Standing at the back of the room as a gala volunteer, watching all the guests listening to David attentively, I knew what that dinner would bring to countries like South Sudan is far more than just a cheque, a few trained reporters or several news stories. Every single effort and decision made in that room, at the centre of a big city in a developed country, would give human rights an opportunity to root and thrive in a society thousands of miles away.
Canada never lacks determined groups advocating for free press and human rights issues. JHR being one of them simply goes further – they understand fighting human rights violations depends more than just advocacy in a peaceful society where human rights are publicly recognized.
“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” This old Chinese saying was what I was taught while growing up, it is what I hold firmly as a life principle and also the biggest reason why I admire JHR’s work. The thought of how many people could potentially benefit from JHR’s work overwhelms me. And the legacy left by JHR’s programs could just be one of the best examples to showcase how journalism could play a role in building a healthier democracy – for not only one or two election cycles, but decades and even generations.
Growing up in China, a country where free press is barely encouraged and human rights issues are rarely the centre of social concerns, I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study journalism in countries that value free press. But not everyone is. For hundreds and thousands of dedicated and unflinching reporters fighting for human rights and social justice around the world, JHR’s work empowers them with professional skills and ethics. More importantly, it brings the message to all the reporters who once thought they were fighting against the obstacles on their own that they are never alone.
On that note, whether being an intern, a volunteer, or any other possible role I might have in the future to support JHR’s work, the experience will always be cherished because I know however small the task might be, it contributes to a larger and meaningful cause. And I believe everyone who attended the gala would hold the same thought.

– Xueting Zhao is a human rights advocate and journalist in Toronto

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