FIVE years ago a group of students were given a lesson on the horrors of the Holocaust.
It shocked the Oaklands Catholic School pupils so much they vowed to create a lasting memorial to all those who had died and continue to be killed through genocide.
Despite juggling GCSEs, and now A-levels, Iris Tatad, Alice Windebank, Hayley Butler and Annabel Page have never given up their commitment to the memorial, which will be in the grounds of the school in Stakes Hill Road, Waterlooville.
And they have collected 1.5m buttons to do it. Their next challenge is to raise up to £30,000 to build a memorial featuring the buttons. They have already raised £10,000.
Alice, 17, said: ‘We were inspired by a documentary on a group who collected 6m paper clips to create a memorial.
‘We wanted to do something similar but with our own spin.
‘We decided on buttons to represent the buttons on people’s clothes because, during a genocide, their clothes are taken away from them. The buttons represent the dignity that is taken away.
‘So far we’ve collected 1.5m and they’ve come from all around the country. Some people have sent them with their own important stories. It’s been really inspiring.’
The girls collected such a huge number of buttons thanks to the help of the Catholic church congregation in Waterlooville, which backed their campaign.
Iris, 18, said: ‘I’ve reflected on how people suffered during the Holocaust and genocides and felt that I had to do something.
‘We have named the memorial, The Memorial Against Hatred and Intolerance.’
The memorial will be on the school lawn but open to the public.
The £30,000 cost includes landscaping of the area.
The buttons will be incorporated into the complete memorial, although it has not yet been decided how.
Teacher Mugeni Sumba said he is full of admiration for his students.
‘I would probably have given up a long time ago,’ said Mr Sumba. ‘But they have been totally focused and dedicated.
‘They’ve worked extremely hard – not just collecting the buttons but designing the memorial and raising money and researching.
‘But now we really, really need the public’s help to make it a reality.’
Mr Sumba said donations of labour and materials are also appreciated.
Go to buttonsforgenocide.co.uk to donate. The next fundraising day is on July at the school.