There’s nothing new about bullying, but the consequences seem to have become more dire as the act no longer stays within the schoolyard, but extends to the 24-hour world of social media.
It’s this lack of escape that’s pushed people into action from the international It Gets Better campaign to more local initiatives.
And now a performing youth troupe, Richmond in 3D (Diversity, Dialogue and Drama) wants to offer schools an additional resource to combat the problem.
A Journey to Action, which will be premiered this evening (Wednesday) at the Richmond Olympic Oval, was filmed throughout the past year as the group delivered workshops on how to tackle bullying, discrimination and racism to various schools across the city.
The documentary will be part of a toolkit delivered to schools as an anti-bullying initiative.
The other components include a facilitation guide for teachers and strategies for students to confront the issue.
“It has to do with sustainability,” said project director Mark Pawson. “It’s not part of the curriculum or anything, but it can be a resource or a guide for action.
“Depending on our funding, we might start focusing on other issues next, like immigration, so this documentary is something schools can always use to deal with bullying.”
Funded by the province and Richmond Multicultural Community Services, the troupe, of about 23 members from 14 to 20-something years old, conduct workshops to schools and community organizations about diversity and racism.
In the past year, they received funding to address bullying in schools. Through performance and dialogue, the members share their stories with Richmond classes and suggest ways to create a more inclusive environment.
They also encourage students to talk about their own experiences with bullying and present alternatives through playback theatre — where they act out the shared experience with other possible resolutions.
“It’s surprising how many students really do open up and share,” said Pawson. “We were at a school a week ago, and one student shared his story about being bullied. Even though he broke down a little, he said he felt relief and hope in the end.”
Students’ stories often extend past the schoolyard, from being bullied by family members to contemplating suicide or mourning the loss of a friend who committed the act.
Many of the students approach the members after a workshop and continue to keep in touch with them. Some even decide to join the group.
“We want the youth to feel empowered, and we do that by providing youth models,” said Pawson. “I hope people can see that youth and individuals can make a difference. People don’t have to suffer and be lonely. All it takes is the power of one — one person who befriends someone.”
Directed and produced by one of the trainers Ana Carrizales, the documentary switches from visuals of the troupe performing for classes to interviews with the members and students about the experience.
A Q&A with Pawson, Carrizales and the troupe members will follow the screening and Pawson hopes to open the dialogue to the audience.