Why I wanted to help
I grew up in Finland, a country that has been named the happiest place in the world for the fourth year running in the annual World Happiness Report. Social justice, equality, and respect for one another are values enshrined in the Finnish culture and upbringing. Despite this seemingly perfect surrounding I grew up in, one of my earliest memories from my childhood involves bullying.
A little boy named Anders, who was my friend in kindergarten, had been bullied by the other boys for no obvious reason. As I later learned, bullying does not need a reason. What seems to be enough, is that the target of bullying somehow differs from the masses, may that be by sex, race, hair or skin color, social economic status or by simply standing out in some imagined or perceived way.
One moment in particular sticks out in my mind was during a camping trip. Some of the other boys were being particularly aggressive and ended up pulling Anders by his hair. To all our surprise a wig detached itself and fell on the ground as some of the boys laughed. Anders was mortified and looked down to his shoes. The situation was extremely traumatic as a 6-year-old, and I remember feeling powerless and frustrated for being scared and unable to help or do anything in defense of my friend.
I remember feeling powerless and frustrated for being scared and unable to help
Following the camping day incident, Anders never came back to kindergarten. A few weeks went by and my kindergarten teacher asked to speak to me. She told me that I was ‘mature enough already to know the truth’ and she had proceeded to tell me that Anders had been sick for a while and that he had passed away due to leukemia. I was only 6 years old, and she had only told me because she saw us always together. This innocent childhood friendship is still today, one of the most monumental and significant friendships of my life as it forced me to deal with issues of bullying, loss, powerlessness, and grief at a very early age.
I remember how Anders and I used to play hide and seek, how we liked listening to the kindergarten teachers tell us bedtime stories before our daily naps, and how we would hold our hands whilst listening to the stories. I also remember how Anders liked to play kissing tag and how he would laugh when I would try and hide under the table. This innocent childhood friendship is still today, one of the most monumental and significant friendships of my life as it forced me to deal with issues of bullying, loss, powerlessness and grief at a very early age.
It forced me to deal with issues of bullying, loss, powerlessness and grief at a very early age.
Since Anders’ passing, I have then gone to build a life and a career, and have lived in 6 countries with different cultures, being exposed to working with over 50 nationalities. The theme of bullying has yet somehow remained, and I have always been extremely sensitive to this unfortunate phenomenon. I have witnessed bullying in various countries in the form of workplace bullying, verbal -, sexual -, social -and cyber bullying. One form of bullying which is exclusion and forcing out of a group, is particularly hurtful and happens within adults, too.
These experiences have then led me to radically change my career as a commercial marketing manager to a justice driven legal career, which I am currently pursuing through a UK based university. Early on in my schooling I took advantage of an opportunity to work for a class action firm that provides access to justice to those who cannot defend themselves.
These experiences have then led me to radically change my career
Today, I am not powerless or scared anymore, and I believe that by using your voice the right way, and empowering others to do the same, we can make this world kinder, by confronting one bully at a time. I believe that the first step in resolving a bullying situation is to have an open discussion with parents, school authorities and those that bully you. Sometimes, the most powerful tool you have with a bully is to hold up the mirror to them, and honestly tell them how their behavior is making you feel.
My goal in my work with Act Against Bullying is to continue the work in providing practical advice and tools to children, in how to stand up for yourself and overcome bullying. I want to help empower children to speak up, so that no child would need to feel powerless to interfere or to speak up if they are being bullied.