-Speaking up against the homophobic Russian law in front of the Russian Embassy (Photo Courtesy: Orsolya Jeney)
“It’s been almost 15 years since I left the Hill. Although I have lived through many other important experiences, the two years I spent on the hill are still the best and most inspiring 2 years of my life. It was an extremely important part of my life that I can never share with anyone but the people of UWC Mahindra College. It feels like a secret that only a few people understand. It often seems to be quite unbelievable; I still think that it was just a dream. I often find it hard to believe that I was that lucky to be able to spend the two years on that hill.
Leaving it was so hard. It was extremely hard. But I was determined to carry on what I have now brought home. I wanted to be the change I wanted to see in the world. I studied International Relations (BA, MA) and then did another MA in Human Rights. I also tried to be very active and collect as many experiences as possible. I was very active during my time at the university where I organised many events. I interned at the FAO (UN, Roma), and was a European Volunteer (EVS) working with irregular migrants and homeless in Spain. I also continued to learn more foreign languages (other than my “tori hindi” and what I picked up from the “espanish espeakers” at UWC Mahindra College). I wanted to be aware of different cultures and the vulnerable groups, and I wanted to acquire all possible knowledge and experience I could to be able to make a useful contribution to my society.
When I was done with my studies, I went on gaining further professional experience: I was a program coordinator at a human rights student organisation, I did research on Roma women for a CEDAW shadow report, and I prepared debriefing papers for the Council of Europe at their national human rights instruments (NHRI) peer conferences.
Later, just when my contract was close to an end, there was an excellent job opening at Amnesty International, Hungary. They were looking for a third colleague to be the coordinator of their campaigns. That job was perfect for me; it was my dream job! It’s been now more than five years that I have had the privilege to lead one of the world’s most prestigious human rights organisations. The fight for human rights is very honorable but very often too hard. One must firmly believe and keep on.
Amnesty International is a global human rights movement with more than 7 million members and activists around the world. Our mission is to inspire people to take injustice personally and mobilize the humanity in them so that together we bring the world closer to human rights enjoyed universally.
-Demonstration against the flogging of Raif Badawi (Photo Courtesy: Orsolya Jeney)
Mobilizing people is often very hard however and requires firm commitment. Hungarian society is very locally focused with its own human rights problems in an environment where the value of human rights is being shrunk by its own government. We are constantly monitoring the human rights situation here, we try reacting to concerning issues such as the limitations on freedom of expression, on the intimidation of civil society, on the heteronormative approach to marriage, on the ineffective reaction of the authorities to hate crimes etc. It is very hard to articulate your recommendation, when hardly anybody from the government listens and constantly tries to discredit you in the eyes of the public. We therefore decided to also redirect our focus to the basics through our Human Rights Education Program. We organize a variety of human rights workshops and trainings for teachers and students. We want to teach young people about human rights and to empower them to stand up for these rights. We are building a rights respecting future generation. It is my duty to find the way and set the directions on how.
Living up to this expectation and forming AI’s presence in Hungary is truly honorable. It is also often very stressful, something that I had to manage to remain always full of energy and inspiring thoughts. It is thanks to my boyfriend that I figured out how to do it.
Apart from being involved professionally, I am also environmentally conscious and thus a committed upcycler – I upcycle bicycle inner tube and beach mattress and turn them into jewelry and accessories.
When my boyfriend encouraged me to visit the crafting table at a music festival, I discovered my passion for upcycling. You could use all sorts of waste materials and make something useful out of it. I started playing with a piece of bycicle inner tube and a neon pink piece of a beach mattress, and made a pair of earrings out of them and then made 2 more pairs for my friends. I was going through a really tough time at work, but it just felt so relaxing that I needed to find some inner tube upon my return and do some more stuff. Very soon I found myself surrounded by a lot of inner tube and my boyfriend got me some real cool flat beach mattress. I think it first worked for me as an art therapy, because very soon after, I recovered.
I started watching more and more DIY upcycling videos and started researching the topic. I became a total fan and soon established my own brand, ursuslupus . It became my aim to produce upcycled accessories that are attractive enough to inspire people to wear upcycled instead of always buying new things. Plus, the inner tube is an awesome material – it is very durable, waterproof and super easy to clean. I have created a FB page, then an Etsy shop and just finished my new website. My aim for this year is to expand my products into upcycled items and actually have the brand known in Hungary. I am very at the beginning however!
So this is my current life in a nutshell. Many of the things I’m doing now were rooted on that Hill and are blossoming now here in Hungary. I will always be extremely grateful for those two years because I would not be the same person who I am today. “
Orsolya Jeney (Orsi)
Class of 2000