“Scotland is a nation with a strong social conscience”
As our members Anne Frank Trust celebrates 10 years of tackling discrimination in Scotland, Lucy Glennon and Heather Boyce explain how young people are leading the way in challenging hatred and changing attitudes
The Anne Frank Trust UK is an education charity, which was established 27 years ago. Our work is designed to empower young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination, using Anne Frank’s story, life, diary and legacy as the foundation. We are the only organisation in the UK licensed to use Anne Frank’s name and writing in this way, and we’re the British partner of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
The power of Anne’s story is its universal appeal, its adaptability. In our programmes, her story is told accurately, factually and within the context of the Holocaust – but it is told by young people (‘peer educators’), who lead their schoolmates through the narrative of this most famous of life stories. From this knowledge base, young people examine contemporary problems and issues in their own lives and communities, looking for parallels, for lessons, taking a look at themselves and others.
In 2007, we knew that this approach worked with the young people we were working with in London, and that many British young people experienced similar concerns and worries. But we were also aware that regional or national differences existed. The programme had potential and, 10 years ago when deciding where to pilot a regional model, Scotland was our first choice.
Our large touring exhibition,Anne Frank + You,had already been a great success, visiting Kirkcaldy, Milngavie, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The people we worked with from schools and local authorities were always so committed and enthusiastic. Normally around 10-15 people train to volunteer with us in any one community, but in Milngavie almost 100 people showed up!
Anne Frank Scotland’s first programme was held at Celtic FC in 2008, where schools from across Glasgow came to learn about the story of Anne Frank, and understand how the words and legacy of a young Jewish girl from the 1940s could provide lessons for them in the modern day.
Issues such as sectarianism and anti-refugee sentiment were prevalent for those young people. These days, we also hear a lot from Scottish young people about homophobia, transphobia and (in what seems to be the sad downside of a digitally connected world), online hate speech, cyber-bullying and body image concerns.
Through our ongoing work with young people in Scotland, we can track these trends, and adapt our programmes to fit. Since the story of Anne Frank is a non-threatening access route to these issues, talking about her experiences empathetically can open up all kinds of discussion opportunities.
We understand that standing up for others is sometimes hard when you’re young and facing peer pressure, but it’s also a lesson for life. We would urge young people to use social media for the good – sharing positive stories and sentiments, following people who inspire social change, signing petitions, backing people up when they’re being targeted. Of course, there are other ways to be actively engaged with social change.
The Anne Frank Ambassador network across the UK is growing, and this year we’ve launched a social networking platform to connect past, present and future Anne Frank Ambassadors, to create a collective social force for good.
Some of our programmes for schools, such as Free to Be and Switch Off Prejudice, allow young participants to create their own campaigns and short videos, where their own authentic opinions can be shared. This means that young people who may have direct experience of discrimination can control their own input to the programme, sharing their story and views in a way that feels meaningful to them. We’re excited to be finding innovative ways to explore modern day issues, and we have young people to thank for that.
Right from the start, even though Anne Frank Scotland began as a three-year pilot, we felt it was a permanent move. The appetite for our work in schools, local communities, charities, local authorities, library services and museums, and from Holocaust survivors, politicians across the spectrum, religious communities and young people themselves, has never waned.
Scottish people seemed to immediately take this tragic story of a girl murdered because of prejudice, and her legacy, to their hearts. Scotland is a nation that has a strong social conscience and a history of acceptance and upholding human rights; it plays out through the thousands of dedicated and spirited young people we work with each year.
Dundee and Glasgow are our two main centres of work but we do desperately want to reach all the communities in Scotland where the young people would benefit from the skills and confidence our work imbues. We are proud to say that over the past ten years, we have inspired over 150,000 young people in Scotland with our work. But we can achieve so much more!
Anne Frank said: “Every person has inside of them a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” We use this sentiment to inspire our work with young people.
Young people in Scotland have huge potential, and opportunities. Our Anne Frank Ambassadors and guides are deeply inspired to go on to do good in their lives, and they feel confident enough to do so. We’re proud to be celebrating 10 amazing years of working in Scotland and are excited to see the continued impact that younger generations have on challenging all forms of discrimination in society. Together, we can have a voice loud enough to shout down hate.
Lucy Glennon is Director of Strategy for the Anne Frank Trust, and Heather Boyce is former Scotland Regional Manager
Contact the Scotland team
This article first appeared in Children in Scotland Magazine Issue 186, published June 2018