Amnesty International Interview


Over half term, my family visited Canada to catch up with relatives, and when there I interviewed my Great Aunt, who is the National Leadership Development Coordinator at Amnesty International, Canada.

Inspired by the Amnesty Club at Seniors, I sat down with Elena Dumitru to find out more about her. The interview took around two hours, whilst enjoying hot chocolates. 

How would you describe yourself in five words?

Organised, compassionate, creative, reliable, fun.

What is your greatest strength?

My ability to work with people. I am genuinely interested in engaging with and learning from others, really keen to find out about their experiences, their history, and I think people respond to that.

What are your hobbies?

I have loved to read since I was little and as I grew up, my appetite for reading also grew. I love music, love singing and have been in choirs or a cappella groups since I was in primary school.  I also like to make my own jewellery but that is a work in progress as I am still learning to make more complicated pieces. I am also a dancer; I did ballet when I was little but now I just go to watch ballet, and keep my dancing for parties and when cooking, to make cooking a bit more fun.

What is your present job and do you like it? How did you get into it?

I work for Amnesty International Canada, as the National Leadership Development Coordinator, supporting grassroots activism and working mostly with young people under 25 on issues such as freedom of expression, protection of environmental human rights defenders, climate justice, gender rights and more. After over 20 years this is still my favourite job in the world, working with young people and supporting their activism, helping bring their campaigning and advocacy ideas to life.

How have your interests changed/developed since you were little?

It is not as much that my interests changed, for sure they developed and as I was exposed to the world, to new places and cultures, my areas of interest grew. For example, while I love music, I was not exposed much to jazz when I was little but living in North America changed all that. Now I love jazz and understand it better. I learned about its roots in African rhythms and European harmony, and about the most famous jazz musicians, the early ones as well as contemporary ones. 

What advice would you like to give to us about overcoming obstacles?

Some obstacles are easier to overcome than others but it is important to start with a positive attitude, with the belief that through our actions things could be addressed and changed for the better. One thing I found of help is to break down the issues into smaller issues and tackle those, one by one. It is also important to be realistic about what is possible and what is not, to communicate with others, to ask questions.

In a nutshell: don’t give up before you try it.

What is your favourite time of the day?

I love breakfast so summer mornings around 8am – 9am when it is still quiet ( except for the birds: we have robins and blue jays in our trees and there is a whole choir each morning) and the world is slowly waking up.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received?

It is not a piece of advice I received personally but something that inspires me in my personal and professional life, a powerful quote from American anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has”. 

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?

Being an immigrant, leaving my native country, my language, family and friends, and having to learn a new language, adapt to a new country and way of life is the biggest learning experience I could have had and while it has not always been easy, I am grateful for it and know l would not be the person I am today without that experience.

Grace W Upper IV

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