While MDC is providing the public space for the new sculptures, both the concept and the fundraising have come from two local women — old friends, originally from Venezuela, who stumbled upon the universal declaration by accident.
After relocating to South Florida, Elizabeth Sanchez Vegas and Devorah Sasha in 2008 decided to leave their previous careers behind. Vegas had worked in the television business, and Sasha as a singer, but the pair turned their attention to forming a nonprofit organization that would promote human rights.
At their first official event, the new International Solidarity for Human Rights group held a Guinness World Record-breaking reading marathon at MDC’s InterAmerican campus. With a team of six women, the organization read aloud nonstop for 10 days, day and night.
In planning for that event, the group searched for a relevant text to read from. It was then that they discovered the universal declaration, and fell in love with it.
“We decided, ‘Oh my God, this document is the key to what we want to do,’ ” Sasha recalled.
After reading (and re-reading) the declaration aloud during that 10-day marathon, the group set about their current project: a 100-mile Route to Human Rights that connects all of MDC’s campuses through human-rights themed artwork.
Each campus will feature a sculpture and plaza symbolizing one of the declaration’s 30 articles, while a blue-and-green, cubed-shaped “Human Rights Pavilion,” measuring 30 feet by 30 feet, is being planned for the North Campus.
The women are still raising funds for the pavilion’s $1 million construction cost, but once complete, it will house 18 to 20 paintings and small sculptures, each dedicated to one of the declaration’s articles. One wall in the building will feature plaques with the full text of each article.
By 2015, the goal is to have the entire Route to Human Rights complete — at which point it will be permanently donated to the college. Vegas and Sasha hope that elementary schools will organize field trips to the pavilion, and that MDC’s student population (more than 174,000, hailing from 173 countries) will ensure that the declaration is exposed to a whole new generation.
“It’s like a small world,” Vegas said of the college. “Imagine how many ambassadors we’re going to have in a few years.”