“She wakes, as eight men in dark uniforms barge through her front door. The men search the house. Abruptly they are both frogmarched to the back of a van. They don’t know where they are going or how long they will remain in this dark, enclosed space. This is not Nazi Germany, this is September 2009 in Leeds.”
This is the chilling first paragraph of Florence Potkins’s winning entry to the Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year competition 2010.
Florence, now 12, says she was motivated to write about a child kept in Yarl’s Wood detention centre after reading Anne Frank’s diary and about the treatment of Jews by the Nazis.
“When I heard about detention centres I thought they sounded like modern day concentration camps – obviously not as bad, but too similar for me. So I decided to research this on the internet and try to write about the experience of someone roughly my age.” She found out about Bethlehem Abate, a girl who was detained in Yarl’s Wood with her mother in 2008, and wrote about her story.
Today, Amnesty International and learnnewsdesk (the Guardian’s online news service for schools) launch this year’s Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year competition for 2011.
We’re asking children aged seven to 14 to write 200-250 words on their interpretation of a human rights story, or tell their own personal human rights story.
Florence’s advice to students entering is: “Do stuff that’s relevant and that you really care about. I was really interested in detention centres. Research is really important – don’t just write it down in 10 minutes. I did lots of preparation. It took me about two weeks to write the article. I did research for a week. Writing it up, perfecting it and checking it took another week.”