Junior Mikhal Ben-Joseph’s Butterfly Project took flight with its first annual Bagel Brunch in the Environmental Educational Center (EEC), taking the first steps toward its primary goal of creating a lasting memorial for children who have suffered from genocide and other forms of senseless violence around the world and throughout history. Aiming to spread genocide awareness and to uphold the commonly touted phrase “never forget,” the brunch raised $1335 dollars for Yazda, an organization intended to provide relief to victims of the Yazidi genocide.
“One big reason I chose the Yazidi genocide is that their plight often falls on deaf ears in our region because the Yazidi population in South Fla. is not large,” Ben-Joseph said. “I think it is significant that all of these community members who were part of the brunch contributed to a cause that supported a group they may have no relation to, essentially as complete strangers; it demonstrates the real goodness people have in their hearts.”
Upon arriving, guests attending the event helped themselves to a variety of breakfast foods outsidef the EEC donated by various local sponsors including Dunkin Donuts and Juan Valdez Cafe. Food in hand, attendees then entered the EEC and participated in many educational activities put together by student clubs Key Club, Rho Kappa and Tikkun Olam. Performances by the Patriot Dancers, Fine Arts singers, and seniors and flutists McKenzie Larson and Tiffany Vera were interspersed throughout the event. Raffle tickets were available for purchase for donated items to raise more money for Yazda.
“The whole event had this special happy vibe, and we had a really unique collection of people. I think everyone who attended, volunteered, performed or even a little bit of each made some nice memories,” Ben-Joseph said.
As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, Ben-Joseph originally found inspiration for the Butterfly Project from a nightmare in which she herself had been a victim of the Holocaust.
“When I woke up in a panic, I realized that my dream had been and continued to be the unfortunate, hellish reality of millions of kids around the world long after the Holocaust ended,” Ben-Joseph said. “I understood that the claim “never again” was meaningless to me unless I did my own part to raise awareness about genocides and stop the crime as it happens in the modern world.” After months of extensive research, planning and coordination with administration, Ben-Joseph’s efforts finally culminated in the Bagel Brunch.
Despite the event’s success, the Bagel Brunch is only the first of many steps necessary to accomplish the full scope of the Butterfly Project’s goals. In the second semester of this year, Ben-Joseph plans to hold a Genocide Awareness Writing and Artwork Contest for freshmen, the winners of which will paint ceramic butterflies to be placed on a memorial constructed in the EEC. In April, Ben-Joseph plans to host a public Remembrance Ceremony to commemorate lives lost during historical genocides as well as to educate the public on genocide lesser known than the Holocaust.
“When we promote awareness of and teach about genocides, we hope to instill the values of empathy and respect in students so that as young adults and leaders, students feel well equipped to combat prejudice, hatred, and violence,” Ben-Joseph said.