Bobby Brough and Afsa Bibi are both in the Sixth Form at Carlton Bolling School, Bradford. They are also are ambassadors at the Anne Frank + You exhibition that we are hosting at the College this April and May, explaining to school groups some of the details of Anne’s story and, importantly, its relevance today as crimes against humanity continue.
Bobby (on the right) and Afsa (centre) showing a school group round the Anne Frank + You exhibition at Bradford College
“I knew about Anne Frank from history and English GCSEs,” Afsa says. “I’d read her diary. I said I’d be an ambassador here at the exhibition first of all because it would be good experience and good on my CV. But now I’ve done the training and started showing people round, it has affected my thinking greatly. It’s made me realise how much I care about the world, and that I need to let people know that and share what I am finding out.”
“Being an ambassador is good,” Bobby explains. “You have to simplify the story so young children understand it. What’s happened, what’s changed, what still needs to change.”
“I learn something new every time I take a group round,” Afsa adds. “There is stuff I didn’t realise – touchy, difficult things – about how isolated Anne’s family were, and how they died, and about the atrocities that continue.”
Bobby feels strongly about the relevance of Anne’s story today and, in particular, the continuing presence of genocide. “Social media needs to inherit history and make it more mainstream,” he says, “so that what happened in the past doesn’t happen in the future. Two thousand people have died in Darfur since 2003, yet that is not in the news. In Burma, there is repression, and that is not in the news either. If it is not brought into the light, it continues.
“There should be campaigns,” he adds. “Google sometimes changes its home page to mark a big event – it should mark a genocide day in that way.”
I asked them both which images in the exhibition have had most impact on them.
Afsa: “There’s a picture of a little boy looking for his parents. I find that very sad, it always affects me when I see it.”
Bobby: “One of the things that really gets to me is a picture of a child holding a gun, with a pink fluffy teddy bear bag on his back. You wouldn’t know he is a child, but the teddy bear shows there is innocence there. That gets me.”
Both say the exhibition has affected them deeply.
“I could never imagine killing someone,” Bobby says. “I used to want to go into the army, but if you fight the Taliban for instance, you are not killing the Taliban but people forced to fight for them. What has that individual done to you?”
Rolf Mason, Bradford College Multifaith Chaplain, is also involved in the exhibition. “It gives us a fascinating glimpse in to Anne Frank’s ordinariness,” he says, “and also what made her so extraordinary. The exhibition puts Anne and her family into a contemporary framework, and this increases the power of its moral message for our students and other visitors. She did what she could do, and we need to do the same. Having young people act as ambassadors, guiding people round, is a very appropriate way of communicating the continuing importance of fighting prejudice and bigotry.”
Afsa is planning to study finance and accountancy, and Bobby aims to become a civilian pilot: both say they hope to continue to help bring about change and to help people who are suffering.
“It’s a small thing, me presenting the exhibition, but I hope it has a tidal effect.”
The Anne Frank + You exhibition is organised by the Anne Frank Trust UK, and is on at Bradford College’s Yorkshire Craft Centre until 9 May. It is open every weekday with discussion sessions on Thursday afternoons. School and other groups are welcome, as well as individual visitors. Find out more.
Anne Frank exhibition ambassadors Afsa Bibi and Bobby Brough with Rolf Mason, Multifaith Chaplain at Bradford College.
Interviews and photos by Ruth Wilson, Bradford College.
Update: 30 April 2013
Our College Principal, Michele Sutton, has asked me to share this recent news item from the Jewish Telegraph. “We are very proud of the efforts of everyone involved in this important exhibition, especially the young ambassadors,” Michele says. “We hope the College will continue to be a place where bridges can be built between the past and present, and between different communities and generations.”