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South stamps hands for peace

By Rutul Patel
Published: April 2010

Newton South’s second Red Hand Day, an event in which students and faculty members stamped their hands in red paint in protest against child soldiers, took place during lunch block on March 31.

Sophomores Charlie Temkin, Newton Pervaiz, and Evan Siegal were inspired to hold and host the event for a project in English after reading A Long Way Gone, the autobiography of a child soldier.

Faculty advisor Jeanne O’Reilly suggested the idea for the project and helped the plan reach fruition. When the idea for the project was first conceived, however, neither Temkin, nor Pervaiz, nor Siegal knew much about Red Hand Day.

After consulting the Red Hand Day website, they learned more about the horrors of child militia and the actions students could take against it.

“It provided us with information about the countries that are involved with child soldiers and the embassies that we can mail our hands to, Siegal said.

Temkin, Pervaiz, and Siegal originally planned to collect as many hands as possible and mail them to the Sierra Leone Embassy in honor of the book.

The Sierra Leone government, however, stopped accepting red hands due to the vast number they received over the years. Instead. the sophomores decided to send their hands to the Niger Embassy in New York, with the hope that the government would eventually respond to the global effort to end their war.

“Red Hand Day is to get rid of child soldiers and to make the countries that still use them to ban the use, Pervaiz said. “We try to do what we can to help this worldwide cause.

They initially expected to gather around 50 hands, but were overwhelmed with people who wanted to show their support by stamping their hands and asking questions about the issue.

“[Red Hand Day] is a fun and creative way to get the seriousness of this issue across, freshman Elena Byun, who stamped her hands three times, said.

Many people who were passionate about the cause also offered their help in organizing the event. Students like senior Austin Bailey helped to spread the word and recruit people to stamp their hands.

Among the recruits were also some faculty and staff members, including Principal Joel Stembridge.

“[Even though] we know that students want to support our cause, we also know that many of the students will paint themselves red for the fun of it, Temkin said.

Students, when asked, had a similar response. They said that the paint and the messiness attracted them to the table, but that they stamped their hands because they wanted to help end the practice of child soldiers.

By the end of the lunch block, Temkin, Pervaiz, and Seigal had collected 167 red stamps, many more than they had expected. After mailing in the hands to the Niger Embassy, they felt they had successfully taken a step closer to the abolishment of child soldiers in war-torn countries.

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