Coming from throughout the U.S. South, 10 young people met in Washington, D.C., this summer to spend a week learning about human rights and advocating for the needs of their communities.

The participants are involved with AFSC’s programs in New Orleans, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. Many have taken part in conflict resolution and peace education projects, while others have lobbied for state policy changes on various issues, including immigration and economic justice.

The summit in Washington, a “Human Rights City” where AFSC has been pivotal in educating students about human rights, was an opportunity for the 10 youth to learn together, connect their communities’ visions for peace and justice, and support each other in lobbying visits with their elected representatives.

Before arriving for the Human Rights Summit, each participant selected an area of focus based on a serious need or injustice in their immediate communities.

Jean-Louis Peta Ikambana, director of AFSC’s D.C. Peace and Economic Justice Program, taught lessons about international human rights and the inter-governmental organizations that manage human rights issues and violations. Presenters from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and other organizations delved deeper into human rights governance, and guided the participants through a problem analysis and creating a theory of change to address their chosen issue.

All of this led up to Advocacy Day, when the participants visited the U.S. Congress and D.C. City Council to meet with their senators, representatives, and council members.

“Whether or not they were ‘successful’ on this day became less important than the realization that each participant was amply prepared to speak on behalf of the affected communities they were representing, and felt confident doing so,” says Jean-Louis.

Take a look at the slideshow above to learn about the participants and the issues that matter to them.