An educator travelling Ontario by bus to teach school children lessons from the Holocaust says the message of standing up to hatred is as important now as it has ever been.
Daniella Lurion, an education associate with Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, is travelling to communities across Canada in a specially-made theatre in a bus called the Tour for Humanity.
The bus will be parked at Mitchell Woods Public School on Wednesday and Thursday, adding to the almost 450 stops it has made in communities across Ontario over the last four years.
The bus was created, said Lurion, because students are not always able to travel to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Toronto.
“Our organization has become the first line of defence for schools when they have to deal with anti-semitic incidents because school staff don’t feel they are equipped to handle it. We come in and give the history. If you see the swastika, what does this represent to millions of people that were targeted and persecuted because of it?” said Lurion.
Over the two days in Guelph, the bus will hold six workshops a day and can accommodate up to 30 children at a time.
“The intent is to make kids aware of the past and how it affects the present and future,” said Lurion.
The approximately one-hour-long presentation includes a video, discussion and workshops with the students.
“We are grounded in lessons about the Holocaust, but we also include things about Canada’s history — residential schools, internment camps and Chinese head taxes,” said Lurion.
Children are able to pick up on broader themes and apply them to their own lives, she said.
“If you look at something like Hitler and the Holocaust on one hand and bullying in school on the other hand — what’s the commonality? Kids will pick up on that. They will say someone is being targeted, someone is being hated or treated badly,” said Lurion.
The bus is intended as a safe place for kids to discuss what may be troubling them, said Lurion.
Every workshop ends on a positive note, she said.
“It’s the idea that, yes (hatred) has happened and are still happening, however you have a responsibility now to do something,” said Lurion.
She added, “we are living in a time, I think, that this is more important than ever for kids to understand what they can do about it.”
Working on the tour has been a way for Lurion to get in touch with her heritage.
“I come from both a Jewish and German background. Some of my family were civilians during the war, on my grandfather’s side they were Jewish refugees during the war. This is part of who I am am and a way for me to share why this is important, not only to me, but to people in general,” she said.
Lurion said she has degrees in history, humanities and Holocaust studies.
“It’s been a way for me to combine everything that I am passionate about into one setting. It feels very meaningful because we are in a time in the world where we are all watching the news every day. I feel like I am making a difference and I hope that I am,” she said.