What We Do
We do anything for which we have the skills and resources and that we think will push forward the cause of Amnesty!
We mention some specific things below.
We meet as a group once a month, almost always in the Bournville Friends Meeting House (65 LindenRoad, Birmingham, B30 1JT ). The meeting is normally at 7:30pm on the third Thursday of each month (except August).
(NB: We have no relationship to the Religious Society of Friends -- the Quakers -- or to any other religious group.)
We discuss and decide many things at meetings, but the most important type of discussion is about the specific activities we are going to undertake. These activities include organising or having a presence at events where we raise awareness of Amnesty issues and gather support, and letter-writing or other lobbying concerning a small number of specific human-rights issues or victims that we have decided to adopt for special targeted work by the group.
The group meetings are informal and friendly in tone, and include a refreshment break.
Group meetings involve not just general business and planning, but often also a highlight in the form of a special talk, mini-workshop or other activity. We have had talks by MPs, national Amnesty leaders, leading representatives of other societies, members of other Amnesty local groups, members of our own group, etc.
We also occasionally have purely social meetings at pubs, restaurants, members' houses, etc.
We have a chairperson for meetings, a secretary who deals with correspondence and other administration matters, a treasurer who maintains and reports on the accounts, and a publicity officer who deals with the media. Others in the group take on various responsibilities either individually or in groups - leading a particular campaign, investigating some issue, visiting schools to speak on human rights, fundraising, selling Christmas cards, storing group property etc., or distributing the electronic and paper newsletters - as time permits.
But you don't have to have a specific responsibility in order to make a valuable contribution at meetings. Just taking a part in the discussions is immensely useful. The more creative suggestions we can get about what to do and how to do it the better.
Contributions by non attenders
People contribute to the efforts of the group in a variety of ways, and we are especially keen to find ways for people who cannot attend meetings to become involved. So far, this includes letter writing, sending greeting cards to human-rights victims, making items for sale on our stalls and putting together our newsletter.
Involment in events has included:
- operating stalls at community meetings such as fetes, in places in Birmingham such as Bournville and Cotteridge
- organising Amnesty publicity events at Birmingham Town Hall and elsewhere on Human Rights Day each year
- organising concerts in aid of Amnesty in various places, including St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham in association with Freedom from Torture (Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture)
- giving talks at local schools
- taking part in walks, vigils and marches for various human rights causes
- holding "writathons" - meetings where we write as many letters as possible about human-rights victims (aided by coffee, conversation and other props!)
- singing Christmas carols in Birmingham New Street station.
Letters are generally either to foreign authorities or to authorities in the UK.
- In the foreign case, they are either about specific victims or general human-rights issues.
- In the UK case, they are about general issues. Amnesty has a policy whereby local groups in a country do not write about specific victims in their own country.
The group periodically chooses a small number of specific, "adopted" victims and issues to write letters regularly about, usually over a period of months or more. This is to ensure a big push on specific victims and issues that Amnesty has identified for special attention.
However, group members are also encouraged to write other letters as they see fit, in relation to as many as possible other victims and issues that Amnesty International identifies. In this respect individual members make their own choices, based on how much time they have available and on what types of human-rights issue they personally are most motivated to combat (torture, illegitimate imprisonment, "disappearance", death penalty, rape, ...)