This guest post is from Jessica Wade, Chair of the Edinburgh St Mark's Amnesty group.
Recently, I turned 30. Not a big deal really, the lucky ones amongst us all do it, get through it, and move on to the next one. Still, there was a nagging feeling as it approached that perhaps this wasn't a birthday worth celebrating. I hadn't quite achieved enough - hadn't quite reached where I'd hoped to in my career, or bought my dream house. And I had quite failed to reach my ideal height. I had a creeping sense that I could have done more, could be doing more. Probably reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar didn't help.
My thoughts turned to a far more significant birthday happening that year too. 50 years of standing up for human rights, speaking out for prisoners of conscience, and setting and changing policy on a global scale. Next to those of Amnesty International, my achievements felt even smaller.
Or was I being unfair to myself? I'm no Aung San Suu Kyi but I do try to do my bit. I work for a charity. I ride a bike. And I have been actively involved with Amnesty International for 12 years or so now. I chair one of Edinburgh's local Amnesty groups; coordinating meetings, organising events, and trying to keep chat on topic where possible. We hold fundraising and campaigning events on an almost weekly basis and there have been some pretty memorable moments. Setting up a graveyard outside the Scottish Parliament for the Control Arms Campaign stands out, and dressing up as Bat Girl for a pub collection comes a close second (certainly for my husband). We engage with the public on human rights issues and lobby our MSPs and MPs regularly. We aim to inform and educate ourselves too, to ensure our group is thriving, growing, and welcoming to all.
So, I may not have achieved as much as I'd hoped, but I am a part of something significant. An international movement that just keeps on plugging away to make a positive difference in the world. Definitely worth celebrating, so I decided to have a birthday party after all and mark Amnesty's 50th in style. I teamed up with two close friends, Ellie and Caroline, who I first met through Amnesty whilst at Edinburgh Uni, and who were also turning 30. We chose a venue, Henderson's @ St. John's, a church our Amnesty group regularly uses for vigils, sleep outs, and stalls, and decorated with Amnesty @ 50 balloons and banners. We asked family and friends to donate money to the cause instead of buying presents and had a fabulous time eating, drinking, dancing, and toasting freedom until the small hours. We raised over £800 via our justgiving.com page, with an additional £100 in donations on the night and after the event. It was a fitting celebration of all Amnesty has achieved in its first 50 years and it felt fantastic.
I'm glad we did it, I feel wonderful about being 30 now, and I'm already looking forward to the joint 100th birthday party when we all turn 40 and Amnesty will be 60.
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