Benya Klaupaukh is currently a Yr 12 student at Wellington College.  When he was required to write a speech for a recent English assignment, he choose to recall his learnings from primary school, when he was a founding student in the Moriah button collection.  He used his experiences on this project to inspire his classmates to reach their goals.  

This is his speech:

Believe in yourself, believe in others.

I was part of a project that made me believe in myself and in others. I hope that my story will do the same to you.

My primary school was very small, with only 20 pupils. At my school we were learning about the Holocaust and one fact we came across was that 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered. Our principal wanted to make me and my fellow students understand the magnitude of this number, so we began our project, New Zealand Children’s Holocaust Memorial, collecting 1.5 million buttons, one for each child that perished in the Holocaust. So, 20 children, no older than 12 years old were supposed to collect, and count, 1.5 million buttons. This even to me, looking back sounds completely ridiculous, that’s 50,000 buttons per student. However crazy we thought this idea was, we never gave up, we never stopped making posters, we never stopped telling people about our ‘ambitious’ project, and we never stopped counting the buttons that were pouring in. We worked tirelessly on this and then, finally, after 3 years of collecting and counting we reached our goal. Think about that, 20 children collecting 1.5 million buttons. Now think about all the things you said you couldn’t do, that one last maths exercise, or that little bit of study for your internal tomorrow morning. Whatever it is, why didn’t you put in that little bit of extra effort to reach your goal? Whatever your poor excuse was, next time think about me and my nineteen peers, if we could collect 1.5 million buttons in 3 mere years, why can’t you reach your goal?

With all the 1.5 million buttons safely stored away, now we start the task of creating a memorial to store all these buttons. This is a massive task, not only do we have to create a design; we have to find a suitable place to house the memorial, we have to fundraise the money needed to build it, and only then can we finally build the final design. This is even harder than the first stage because now there are only a few of the original children left to help, but luckily The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand has agreed to help the project. However enormous this task is, we won’t give up, we could collect 1.5 million buttons, so why can’t we raise $50,000? We have made a Facebook page that is, slowly, gaining interest. We made a website and made a somewhere where people can easily donate. This isn’t very much, it didn’t cost anything, it only took up a bit of our time. But the result that we will achieve is more important than the few hours we gave to creating the websites. This is the attitude you need to have. What will you lose, 30 minutes of your ‘precious’ time that you could spend instead playing your video games? They can wait, they won’t go anywhere, but your due date will. So maybe you should spend those ‘precious’ 30 minutes working on getting more ‘precious’ rewards like NCEA credits.

Just in case you were thinking that our project is easy, or not too hard, let me clarify. We faced many obstacles and challenges that we had to overcome, one example being the school closing down. We were however fortunate for this unfortunate event to happen after all the buttons had been collected. This did though suspend the project for a while. But we did continue, we came back with a new desire to make this work. What started this new beginning was leadership, someone coming and taking charge. All we needed was a leader. This is something you need to remember. That if no-one steps up and takes charge, nothing will happen. So why don’t you step up, what do you have to lose? Most importantly why don’t you step up and take charge of your actions, because no-one else will.

I hope that my fellow 19 students and I could teach you something about believing in yourself and in others. If we could collect 1.5 million buttons, why can’t you reach your goal, whatever it may be? If we can use our ‘precious’ time to work on our worthy cause, why can’t you use your ‘precious’ time to reach your goal? And if we can take charge and overcome our obstacles and challenges, why can’t you?

Thank you.