Stories of schoolyard bullies, stolen lunch money and jealous rivalries are familiar to us all, but combine that with the power of social media and bullying takes on a more sinister form in the 21st century. That is why AYUDH, our youth branch, has developed a unique project aimed at combatting bullying in schools and communities.
Lucia Rijker, six-time world champion kickboxer, came on board from the start to guide and support our new anti-bullying initiative. Drawing on her background of facilitating self-empowerment workshops with young people across the world, Lucia gave great insight into ways of fostering an attitude of tolerance, acceptance and self-respect and played a key role in the development of the RespAct project.
Guided by Lucia, a group of AYUDH members who are professionals in the fields of education, psychology & social work were brought together and the RespAct team was born. Thus followed months of research into the psychology behind bullying, the unique traits of cyberbullying and comprehensive approaches to help put an end to it.
Bullying is highly prevalent in schools all across Europe, with one in three European students experiencing cyberbullying, the effects of which can include depression, anxiety and lower academic performance. A holistic approach with students, teachers and parents together creating a school climate of mutual respect, tolerance and inclusion is proven to be the most effective strategy. The RespAct project aims to support and empower school communities to create a positive anti-bullying culture in their own schools.
RespAct was developed in conjunction with a German middle school, the Theodor Litt Schule in Michelstadt, whose very committed staff contributed immensely to the project. The school conducted a survey of each of the 500 students, which yielded some interesting results and the student input really helped guide the project development.
During the 2015 annual AYUDH EU Youth Summit ‘Together We Can’ in Germany, the project was launched at the Theodor Litt Schule. It took the form of a special motivational ‘kick-off’ event with the entire school, facilitated by Lucia Rijker, featuring insightful presentations by 250 AYUDH members, developed in their country groups. Over the course of a week, a smaller working group, consisting of AYUDH members and students, some with migration and refugee background, participated in workshops on the topics of ‘Respect.’
Workshop participants worked together to develop a student-led strategy for implementation in the school in 2016. AYUDH will continue to work with the school to help to nurture a positive school-culture of respect, awareness and empathy.
The next phase of the RespAct project will see empowerment talks by Lucia Rijker in different schools across Europe with follow-up support and workshop materials from AYUDH.