International Grade 11 student Viivi Raety is no stranger to bullying.
“I have been bullied for more than 10 years of my life,” Raety said. “It was bad. It made me emotionally and physically really down.”
Raety attended the Pink Shirt Day Breakfast on Feb. 27 at the Laurel Packing House in Kelowna, an annual event hosted by the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs, to support the anti-bullying movement.
“I came here to show that I’m different. I’m from Finland,” Raety said. “I’m going to show my respect for Canada and not bully people and show that I’m different and people accept me for who I am.”
According to online statistics, more than 75 per cent of people say they’ve been bullied.
Which is why each February 27, Canada and about 180 other countries around the world celebrate kindness, empathy and compassion.
“Initially (Pink Shirt Day) started in Nova Scotia with a couple of boys who were feeling very disappointed at what had happened with their peers,” explained Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs community engagement coordinator Richelle Leckey.
“There was some teasing that went on with a child that was being bullied for wearing pink and they went out the next day and bought all pink shirts and had all the kids in the school wearing the shirts and celebrating the day as being a day of acceptance.”
And that’s exactly what the day signifies to Raety.
“For me, Pink Shirt Day means being who you are,” Raety said. “Being what kind of person you want to be and not thinking what other people think about you.”
About 250 people attended the fifth annual Pink Shirt Day Breakfast.
Along with raising awareness, the event also raises funds for youth programs.
“At the Boys and Girls Club, we specifically offer programs before and after school. We also have recreation programs in the evenings and on weekends,” Leckey said.
“The money that we raise is going back to supporting kindness programs and programs around friendship. We do a lot of stuff around self-esteem and leadership.”
Leckey says opening dialogue with your children is crucial in guiding them through potential bullying issues.
“Always encouraging kids to talk about their day,” Leckey said. “What were the good parts, what were the bad parts, and then addressing what kind of issues they’re bringing up.”
Should a child be bullied, Leckey recommends online resources to help parents navigate the conflict and find solutions.
“Together we just have to educate the kids that it’s all about being kind. Being compassionate,” Leckey said. “Understanding that we are all in this together.”