Week 8 – Bullying (Anti-Bullying Day)

I picked the topic of bullying because this Wednesday (25th of February) was Anti-Bullying Day.

What I discovered

The problem of bullying is often associated with young school-aged children (and I learnt that actually most people that bully or are bullied experience it around that time) but it can affect people of all ages. I decided to learn more about the effects on the adult that was a bully or was bullied as a child.

For many adults who were bullied, the associated feelings of unhappiness decrease with time, though people who remember the experience of being bullied as extremely painful, it can affect all parts of their adult life and lead to low self-esteem and mental illness. Often by the age of 23, bullying behaviour or experiencing bullying lessens, and victims of bullying are not as socially isolated.

Regarding experiences of bullying and being bullied during childhood, I learnt that research has found that when people are bullies or bullied, that role tends to stay with them even if they change schools. There are also bully-victims, who both bully and experience bullying. People in this category are more likely to suffer from depression that either bullies or victims.

Action

I have always aimed to teach my daughter acceptance of and compassion towards all people, regardless of their backgrounds, circumstances or characteristics. However since reading about bullying I have been more conscious about what I am teaching her (especially unintentionally, through how I talk and act). My action for this week is to continue being more conscious of the intentional and unintentional lessons I am teaching her, so that she grows up to be a loving and compassionate person.

I also made a donation to the ‘Pink Shirt Day’ anti-bullying appeal, which is part of the Mental Health Foundation. http://www.pinkshirtday.org.nz

Week 7 – Climate change refugees

‘Climate change refugees’ refers to people who must migrate to avoid severe livelihood disruption caused long-term changes to their environment due to climate change. Unless drastic changes happen with regard to mitigating and adapting to climate change, it is almost certain the number of climate change refugees will continue to grow. I chose this topic because although I am familiar with the phrase and concept, I had only a theoretical and ‘objective’ understanding of what it means to be a climate change refugee, and I wanted a more ‘human’ understanding.

What I discovered

I read a lot about different communities threatened by climate change and in particular followed the stories of the 3000 Carteret Islanders who must all leave their home islands as soon as possible, but have not received any government support to do this (they are mainly relocating to a larger island 86 km away, but there is no land or infrastructure ready for them).

I found out about a lady, Ursula, who created a charitable organisation to help the Carteret Islanders relocate and establish themselves in their new homes. She is an incredibly inspirational person who is working so hard for her community, and her story is so touching – http://www.tulele-peisa.org/#&panel1-1 (short video clip about her and the charity she set up).

Action

For several months now I have been volunteering with Oxfam New Zealand, creating environmental education materials for schools. For my action this week I created a series of lesson plans and activities about ‘Climate Change and the Pacific’, using Ursula’s story as a key example. The materials are aimed at engaging pupils with climate change, and promoting action and responsible citizenship. I will post a link here when they go online (in a week or so).

Week 6 – Epilepsy

I picked epilepsy for this week as last weekend my employer and friend (Julia) passed away. She experienced SUDEP – Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. She was incredibly hard working and generous. She cared about the environment and people, and had ideas and plans that would change the world. She was only 32 and I feel a great loss: personally, and for the world.

What I discovered

Over the last week I have researched the condition and feel I have come to understand it better. I read about the symptoms, possible causes and other ‘medical information’, but also personal accounts and experiences.

I learned about the isolation that many sufferers experience, for example by being overwhelmed in certain group settings (due to multiple conversations being difficult to follow), or losing their jobs because employers have not taken the time to listen to their work environment needs (e.g. flexible hours, to allow for recovery from seizures). I also learned that up to 55% of people with epilepsy suffer from depression.

Coming to better understand what Julia and other people with epilepsy experience has made me more aware of their differing needs. I better understand the importance of listening to their experience of the condition and what they require to manage it effectively. I feel I’d be able to offer better support to someone with epilepsy, should I work or befriend someone with the condition in the future.

Action

I gave a donation to the Epilepsy Society www.epilepsy.org.nz.

Week 5 – Cycling (Bike Month)

February is ‘Bike Month’ so I decided to pick cycling as the first post of this month. I grew up in Cologne, Germany where cycling is a common and safe mode of transport. Here in New Zealand there are fewer facilities and less infrastructure designed for cyclists, and generally fewer cyclists on the road.

What I discovered

I try to cycle instead of drive as much as possible because of it’s lower environmental impacts and as a source of exercise. Upon looking in to the other benefits of cycling I found a website that listed another 59 benefits: http://www.ibike.org/encouragement/benefits.htm. Beyond my personal fitness and the fact that it is an ‘environmentally-friendly’ transport option, I had not thought about why cycling is positive. But as the webpage points out there are many personal, community and wider environmental advantages – which is super!

What I also read about was the difference a bicycle can make to people in less economically developed countries. For people with no means of transport other than their feet, a bicycle offers mobility on a whole new level. They allow people to travel further and faster, meaning tasks that were previously time-consuming (walking hours to collect water or firewood) or physically taxing (carrying produce to markets) are made easier. The increased mobility and time also sometimes means being able to access school and other education institutions, healthcare providers or employment opportunities – leading to lives and livelihoods being transformed.

5 ways bicycles change the world: http://www.care2.com/causes/5-reasons-bicycles-can-change-the-world.html

Action

I cycle to my daughter’s daycare (with her in a child seat on the back) and all the staff at the daycare and in the nearby buildings and facilities recognise us. Every so often, someone makes a comment about our cycling (that they think it is a good idea, that my daughter looks so happy when sh’es on the bike, that it is great to stay in shape, etc) and usually I just smile or say thanks, but from now I am going to agree, and perhaps nurture the idea that it is fun and something they could do too.

For this week’s action I also made a donation to Bicycles for Humanity, a grassroots movement where bicycles are sent to communities in developing countries – http://bicycles-for-humanity.org.