Countless people around the world are grateful to Peter Benenson – regardless of whether or not they realize it. Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International, was inspired in the 1960s to launch a movement to expose and alleviate government injustice around the globe. Since then, Amnesty has grown to be a household name, with more than seven million members and supporters.
Benenson’s life of service began at a young age, with his years at Eton College – an elite British private school – serving as a launching pad for future success in humanitarian aid. At age 16, he led a campaign to receive school funding for war orphans during the Spanish Civil War, going so far as to “adopt” one of the babies by providing financial support. This was just the beginning of laying the foundations, however, with his next self-starting movement achieving the rescue of two young German Jews from Hitler’s Germany. By raising money from his school friends and their families, Benenson was able to change the trajectory of the lives of two people. His heart for the underdog continued to develop as he sought out London-based housing for recently relocated refugee children, one of his first projects after graduating from Eton.
His ultimate pursuance of law led him to build an international reputation for himself as a lawyer. Working in the courts of Spain, Cyprus, and other countries undergoing institutional change, his experiences early on later led to the formation of Amensty International’s mission to defend the rule of law all over the world. It was from this series of activity that shaped the official establishment of Amnesty in 1961, with his desire to fight on behalf of people suffering under abuse of the law carrying him all the way through.
Those early days set the stage for Amnesty to grow and mature into a frontrunner human rights organization throughout the world, with an emphasis on “political impartiality, independence from governments, and rigorous accuracy of information” (Amnesty). Benenson’s reach into the human rights world realm has since allowed for millions of kids to live and lead better lives, wherever they may find themselves. His compassion and dedication to finding and exposing unlawful injustices anywhere and everywhere has outlived him, leaving a historical legacy in which the kids can, and will continue to be, alright.