Monday 22 January 2024

Bullying - Life Threatening, Life Ending!

Celebrating the New Year, for many is the time to look forward with new hopes and new inspirations, but for a number of young people it is just another day, another week, another month and another year filled with fear from bullying.

Throughout 2024, I will be posting monthly posts from an amazing young man whose life was almost destroyed to the point of coming to an end by unbelievable bullying.

We hear a great deal about life threatening injuries, but bullying isn’t just life-threatening, for some it is life ending.

In our first post about bullying, we meet, Samuel, an amazing young man who survived horrendous bullying.  Samuel gives a glimpse into the years of abuse he suffered. He will also talk about the wonderful charity, Red Balloon in Norwich, Norfolk, UK who turned his life around and helped him become the independent man he is.

Meet Samuel…

“…as was the case with myself, it’s violent, cruel and menacing. I can recall times being chased by children with knives and screwdrivers, held down in locker rooms and beat, ambushed on my way home from school by a group of boys in an alleyway, and worse…”

Hello everyone, my name is Samuel and I would like to take a few minutes of your time to talk about an incredible learning centre called Red Balloon Norwich that’s working right now to brighten the futures of vulnerable young people in East Anglia. The Centre takes children that are unable to attend mainstream school, owing to some specific vulnerability or trauma, and offers them a safe, tailored environment in which to learn.

I was a student at Red Balloon Norwich in the early 2010’s and I have the incredible privilege to serve on the board of trustees today. I would like to my share my experience and some of my thoughts on the centre with you, to help build a picture of the kinds of situations young people may find themselves in and how they can be helped.

Like many children my time in school was not pleasant. Bullying is quite a broad term and ultimately it’s expression is different for each child that experiences it. But for some, as was the case with myself, it’s violent, cruel and menacing. I can recall times being chased by children with knives and screwdrivers, held down in locker rooms and beat, ambushed on my way home from school by a group of boys in an alleyway, and worse that would not be fitting to give words to in polite company. My peers from Red Balloon could recall similar stories, or indeed even worse; it’s difficult to exaggerate some of the things the young students of red balloon have been through. But ultimately, it’s a deeply personal and serious tragedy that brings a child into our care.

We attend school as young people to learn something of the world and better equip ourselves to navigate it as adults. As I’m sure everyone here can relate, it’s not easy being grown-up, and every child deserves the best chance we can give them. When we are bullied, especially in the manner in which our young people have been, it stacks the deck against us. We might become fearful of the world, our peers, adults. We might have difficulty expressing or rationalising that fear, or even in trusting someone enough to risk communicating how we feel. The trauma and how a child responds to it will be different for each child, the only thing in common is that it’s not good, and never should have happened in the first place. Speaking only for myself I was almost paralysed with fear anytime I had to leave the house. The only person I could speak to comfortably was my mum, without who’s herculean efforts I would never would have made it so far as Red Balloon in the first place.

It wasn’t obvious to me at the time that I wanted to go on. This is the condition that Red Balloon found me in.

I’d like to share my first memory of the Centre, I’m hoping the effect it had on me can help to demonstrate the good that places like Red Balloon do. At the time the centre was operating in an old Church and my Parents and I were nervously waiting in front of a grand looking side door, wondering if we’d arrived at the right place. A gentleman opened the door, said hello and smiled at me. It’s such a mundane gesture to think of it now, but it had an enormous impact. It was like the pleasant atmosphere of the centre was radiating out from the open door. I remember being confused. This wasn’t at all the behaviour I had come to expect from a school!

Over the course of my first day I met with some of the lovely staff and students of the centre. I was taught to play chess, which I still play to this day. I met with some teachers who gave me a lot of time to talk about my interests and in the coming years they helped me cultivate them. And I met with other students of the centre, who I became friends with. At the end of the day, when the whole centre would gather and have a debrief, students were encouraged to share positive moments about their day. One student picked their moment as meeting me and making a new friend. I was still confused: Surely not. Surely it can’t be this good.

I’m very happy to report that the centre really is that good. In my time spent there I was helped to engage with the world again by degrees. I made friends. My once dormant curiosity was ignited and I discovered a love of history and literature amongst many, many other things.

When it was time for me to leave, I was ready. Since Red Balloon I have attended higher education, and went on to study with an accounting body while working in finance, where I have remained happily since. I credit all of this to Red Balloon.

Samuel will be back in the coming weeks. Please make sure you join us to share Samuel’s journey. We can’t guarantee it won’t make you angry and emotional, but we hope it will help you understand why bullying must never be tolerated.

Red Balloon

“… bullying, abuse, mental health problems or life-long conditions are among the most common causes that lead young people to hide in their bedrooms. There, they isolate themselves from the company of others, from school and from society.

This causes a downward spiral of social isolation, marginalisation, missed education and deteriorating mental ill-health. They become ‘hidden’ at home and their voices are ignored. They risk not finding their place in the adult world.

What we do

Red Balloon is an alternative to school which enables young people to re-engage with education. We have both ‘physical’ and virtual Centres to best meet students’ needs…”

You can find out all about Red Balloon, Norwich, UK by visiting their web site. Click HERE to learn about this amazing charity.

Over the next twelve months I will be adding posts about Sam’s journey and the wonderful work of Red Balloon, please come back and join us on our journey. The more we all understand the more we can all help and stop this evil behaviour.

 As always, thank you for visiting. I hope the sun is shining in your heart and on your face.

Take care

Pauline


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