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A lesson in humanity

Tour for Humanity rolls into Sudbury, uses the holocaust to teach children about hate and intolerance

Students at Redwood Acres Public School got a lesson in humanity on May 5.

The Tour for Humanity, a 30-seat, wheelchair accessible, state-of-the-art, technologically advanced mobile human rights education centre rolled into town with one goal: to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds. 

While the holocaust lays the foundation for the tour, the overarching goal for younger audiences is to empower them to raise their voices and take action against hate and intolerance, bullying and to promote justice and human rights, said Daniella Lurion, education associate, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, and co-ordinator for Tour for Humanity.

Since its launch in 2013, the Tour for Humanity has visited more than 300 schools across Ontario and provided invaluable lessons on tolerance, human rights and justice to more than 60,000 students and educators.

“We're based in Toronto, and we want to be able to bring our message to communities that can't come to us,” Lurion said. 

The presentation touches on some of history's most notable humanitarians, such as Harriet Tubman, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and most recently, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education. She was shot in the head as a result, but survived and is now a much stronger voice, even being named the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

“We don't talk about the worst parts of the holocaust, because they're still really young, and not only might they not understand it, but we don't want to scare them. That's why the focus is on the issue of diversity, democracy, and Canadian civic rights and responsibilities.”

Lurion said her job as co-ordinator for the tour has been just as eye opening as it is for the audiences.

“The kids are always a fantastic audience,” she said. “They come up with the most interesting questions. It's students in the lower grades, like at Redwood Acres, who are still willing to talk about and offer up suggestions about bullying. It's younger children who we want to show they can have a voice, and they can make a difference.”

The bus turns into a safe space, she said. 

It might only be in their school parking lot, but it's not in their classroom, so they come in and feel safe enough to share their own experiences with bullying,” she said. When that happens, it really brings it home foe everyone that it doesn't just happen to someone else, it happens to people you know, and it can happen to you.”

The bus was in Sudbury for only one day before heading to Sault Ste. Marie, however, Lurion said there may already be plans to return to the Nickel City in the spring.