HMDT Blog: Lead Youth Champion Hayley Carlyle

This blog was a speech given at a special reception for survivors on Thursday 18 January by Hayley Carlyle, Lead Youth Champion for Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT).

HMDT Blog: Lead Youth Champion Hayley Carlyle

My name is Hayley Carlyle; I am the Lead Youth Champion for Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s Youth Champion programme, a programme I have engaged with since 2014.

My journey with the Youth Champion programme began by accident. While studying at university, I saw an advertisement in the weekly newsletter for a Youth Champion workshop that HMDT were hosting on campus. As a history student who has always found the subject of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides interesting, I felt that this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. I attended the workshop alongside a group from a sixth form college in Manchester. They all knew each other – I didn’t know anyone – but by the end of the day, I’d made friendships that are still strong and, most importantly, met young people who are still actively involved with the Youth Champion programme. Looking back at that workshop now, I am so glad that I attended and I am incredibly thankful to HMDT for hosting it. That Saturday was one of the first times I felt like I truly belonged. I found myself in an environment where I was surrounded by like-minded individuals, united behind a cause we are all so passionate about. The Youth Champion programme is not just a means of reaching out and educating young people, most importantly, it provides young people aged 14-24 with tools, skills and inspiration, empowering them to act and be the ones responsible for the change they want to see in the world.

As Youth Champions, an integral part of our role is to take action and organise our own activities and events to raise awareness of Holocaust Memorial Day and its message. During my time as a Youth Champion, I have both held and been involved with the organisation of several activities. The event that has had the most profound effect on me happened last year. Leading up to HMD 2017, I was approached by the education team at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool who, knowing of my involvement with HMDT, asked for my help in planning and delivering their HMD programme. On 27 January, using a combination of HMDT Resources and the museum’s handling objects from the collection, we engaged with members of the public, talking to them about the Holocaust, subsequent genocides and contemporary human rights issues. We also encouraged people to take some time to reflect and write their responses onto paper cut outs of hands that we called ‘hands of hope’. These were then added to a tree, providing a moving and powerful visual representation of conversations that had happened throughout the day. Throughout the course of the event, we engaged with a wide variety of people, the youngest being a 4 year old boy on an afternoon outing with his Mum.

I’ve always felt passionate about genocide commemoration but, until recently, have always struggled to adequately express why. The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day this year is The power of words, a theme that has provided me with some incredibly powerful words that embody why I am standing in front of you today and, have further strengthened my desire to continue engaging with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s Youth Champion programme, to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and, to raise awareness of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and, subsequent genocides. These are the words of Holocaust Survivor, Zigi Shipper:

There is nothing we can do about the past, but there is a lot we can do about the future. It’s up to young people, the most important people in the world.

The HMDT blog highlights topics relevant to our work in Holocaust and genocide education and commemoration. We hear from a variety of guest contributors who provide a range of personal perspectives on issues relevant to them, including those who have experienced state-sponsored persecution and genocide. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HMDT.