HEART Teaches Kids in Milan, Italy About Human Rights

For the third year in a row, HEART brought its We Are All Worthy unit to high school students at the Colegio San Carlo in Milan, Italy. We didn’t have to get on a plane. Instead, we logged in to Webex, and spoke to the students virtually, partnering with the incredible local teachers and utilizing a blossoming technology to bring humane education to kids roughly four thousand miles away.
 
Each morning over three days HEART staff Kim Korona and Meena Alagappan introduced topics on human rights such as basic needs, water scarcity and child labor. Students were asked to think about the kinds of things that all people require to live and thrive, such as food, water, shelter, healthcare and education and then to consider just how many people lack access to those most basic needs. The conversations really prompted the kids to feel gratitude for their own lives since they didn’t have to worry about things like where their next meal was coming from, and to want to help those who may be suffering because they don’t have a roof over their head or clean water to drink.
 
One student said, “I understood that there are so many people that are not as lucky as we are. And I learned some solutions and initiatives that we can do to help them.” Another commented about how these lessons would change his personal actions. He said, “I will start helping poor people, even if I know that it’s just a little part to make the world better and I won’t waste water anymore and I’ll be happy for what I have.”  In fact, nearly every student volunteered that they would try to reduce the amount of water they use each day as a way to help the larger global issue.
 
Educator Kim Korona said about the program, “Students were shocked to learn about some of the human rights violations that have occurred around the world and they agreed that there are certain rights that should be universal.”
 
In HEART’s programs, students are asked to look at an issue from all sides and use critical thinking to examine their own actions and how they can potentially make more positive decisions to benefit themselves, others, and the greater world. While talking about water scarcity, the students learned that around 780 million people lack access to clean water, and as a result, more than 3.4 million people die each year from water related illnesses. The students thought about all the ways humans use water each day. We use it for tasks like cooking, drinking, showering, cleaning and agriculture. Then, they thought about some of the other ways humans use water that are luxuries rather than necessities like water parks, pools, watering the lawn and lengthy showers. Later, they measured their own water footprint to find out how much they use in a day as compared to what is considered the minimum needed by the United Nations.
 
When discussing child labor, the students looked at what inspires them to buy a certain piece of clothing or stay loyal to a brand. Fit? Style? Price? While taking a more in depth look at child labor they were asked to consider where their clothes were made, who made them, and in what type of working conditions. They read a double-voice poem comparing the life of a teen in a sweatshop making sneakers to the life of a teen wearing the very same sneakers. Then, the students wrote their own poems.
 
At the end of the three days, students knew a lot more about human rights than when they started, and all of them were eager to have HEART come back for more since there is still so much to learn on the topic. Well, we’re just as eager and we’re happy to say that we’ll be back in June. We are so thankful to the Colegio San Carlo for partnering with HEART to offer our programs in Italy. The need for compassion towards all beings and the planet is a universal subject and the students we met were definitely up to the task of creating a more humane world for all life.
 
Photo Credit: Paolo Margari

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