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When Sana Ditta saw how delighted people were with teddy bears in windows over the national lockdown period she knew she had to find a way to extend the love. So, she created the Teddy Bear Project, an initiative that gives teddy bears to refugee children arriving in New Zealand. She started a Givealittle page to raise funds to buy the teddy bears and ended up donating more than 150 to the Red Cross in Canterbury.  

The Red Cross still collects the teddy bears, but Ditta wants her bears to go national, or maybe even global.  

“I want all former refugee children to be welcomed into New Zealand at the airport with a teddy bear, not just Christchurch. Teddy bears provide a sense of comfort. I want to relay the message that New Zealand is welcoming and nothing says a warm welcome more than a teddy bear. More than anything else, children need to feel connected to others in order to feel safe. These comfort teddies help children to feel instantly connected to a companion.  

It’s truly amazing how something as simple as providing a toy to a child can ultimately change their outlook. I’d like to get to a point where we have so many that we can start giving them to children experiencing hardships overseas, like in Yemen and Syria.” 

Ditta has entered her initiative into Amnesty International’s new youth award; The Gary Ware Legacy Award. The award will run annually and is thanks to a very giving family of human rights advocates in Tauranga. It seeks to enliven the existing passion from young rangatahi across Aotearoa for a brighter future through creativity and problem solving. It could explore human rights impacts arising from climate breakdown, armed conflict, or something else.  

She says human rights are important because they apply to everyone. 

“My biggest goal has always been to teach the values of respect, inclusion and equality. I want our future generation to live in a world where they feel safe and diversity is embraced. It is a basic human right and people should not have to fight for it.” 

But what are human rights you ask? 

You use your rights every day! You exercise your right to health and wellbeing when you eat, or go to the doctors. It’s your human right to have a healthy home, to go to school each day and to freely participate in the cultural life and activities of your local community. It’s your right to have rest and leisure in your daily life. It’s your right to be protected from harm and violence. It’s your right to practice a chosen religion if you wish. It’s also your right not to! And it’s your right to freely express your opinion, that is, how you feel about things in your life.  

These rights apply to everyone. It’s also people’s right to find a safe home in another country if they have had to run away from serious danger, especially if it’s due to their race, nationality or political or religious beliefs.  

This is thanks to many people in the past who have worked hard to protect a life where all people can live with promise and dignity. All rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This special document recognises all people as equal and establishes a global agreement on human rights for everyone. 

Amnesty International’s Community Manager Margaret Taylor says the Gary Ware Legacy Award is a great opportunity for those who have ideas but maybe not the funding. 

“We are deeply grateful to the Ware family for providing an avenue for young people in New Zealand to evoke change for the brighter and more compassionate world that our youth already envision. This is a chance for young people to power their human rights idea to help build a world based on justice and kindness, to create a future with opportunity and promise.”  

Applications are being accepted from schools and youth networks across the country and it’s open to all ages under 25 years. 

The closing date for applications is the 30th September, 2020. 

An application can be filled out here.