Amnesty International: A powerful force
Nash leads movement of students on campus fighting for human rights
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 13:10
Andrew Nash, a junior speech and hearing sciences major, traveled to the Ecuadorian Andes the summer before his senior year of high school. He taught indigenous children – preschool through second grade and high school students – English, music, art, physical education and math.
These children were born and raised in the Andes Mountains; they lived in small cinder-block homes with their potato and cabbage fields growing on the steep faces of the mountains, according to Nash. He said some of the students were coming to school just so they could eat a few times each week. They often came from families of 17 children; not all of them could be fed.
The children never looked like they were struggling, though. They loved coming to school. They smiled while playing soccer and eating lunch together, he said.
Two of the high school girls told him that they wanted to go to college – one wanted to be a veterinarian and the other a computer scientist. He knew they would never have this opportunity because of their circumstances. This affected him the most, he said.
While the children gained worldly knowledge from Nash, he gained something different from them: inspiration. He was beginning to learn about himself. This was his first step toward becoming the person that he is today: president of Amnesty International, a temporary club at UB.
Amnesty International is the world’s largest human rights organization. UB’s club is just a chapter of the umbrella organization; the club hopes to bring awareness to UB and the Buffalo community about the hardships people face worldwide, including in the United States. Nash, along with his executive board and the rest of the club, hopes to promote action amongst people in the community.
Many things have motivated Nash to pursue his ambitions.
Upon completing his summer work in South America, Nash went back to his home in Pawling, N.Y., – located by the border of New York and Connecticut – and began an Amnesty International chapter in his high school. Being in South America made a lot of the struggles others face more real and visible; he was determined to continue his philanthropic work when he got back home.
That Christmas, his group sold lollipops and raised enough money to supply each child in the summer school program with a guinea pig – a traditional dish in the South American Andes.
Nash knew he had to continue his efforts when he graduated from high school. He got to UB and realized how much opportunity and potential he had on campus, he said. He joined Amnesty International, and though the club was smaller and he did not know much about it, its presence grew over time.
Each week, the group discusses current events and topics such as gay rights, Edward Snowden, the Syrian conflict, women’s access to education and more.
Some of these topics affect Nash personally.
“As I came to college, I grew to learn more about myself,” Nash said. “During college, I had come out as gay – something that I had struggled with for quite some time at home. It was the LGBTQ community and the support of my friends here at UB that made things work out well. I owe a lot to UB and Buffalo actually. My experience up here in WNY has opened my eyes to so many things.”
Nash comes from a conservative family, who are “quite opinionated on thinking being gay was unnatural,” he said. This was a major factor in his struggle.
Nash felt confident enough after his freshman year of college to come out. The first person he told was his best friend’s mom. She was open and supportive, but he still had not told his parents. Once he met his boyfriend, Jason, he wanted to come out to his family.
“I called [on] a Saturday afternoon after volunteering downtown,” Nash said. “I started it off with, ‘So, mom and dad, I met someone here at school...’ And my dad immediately interrupted with, ‘Did you get someone pregnant?’ So I was like, ‘Well, you definitely don’t need to worry about that!’”
It was a relief and surprise that his parents were accepting and supportive. He was able to express his sexual orientation to his parents with some comic relief.
Because Buffalo has helped Nash truly find himself and has taught him so much, he does as much as he can to do the same for others in the area, he said.
After reading the book Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and seeing the related PBS documentary about the oppression of women and girls in developing countries, Nash felt a strong desire to support women worldwide. He became interested in UB Girl Effect, a club on campus with the mission to “raise money and awareness to underprivileged girls in less developed countries and to advocate for these young girls into becoming well-rounded women in their own countries and ultimately the future of our society,” according to its Facebook page.
Nash believes education about the struggles women face daily is crucial; he hopes to spread this education by attending Girl Effect’s meetings and events and discussing women’s rights at Amnesty International’s club meetings.