Fri, May 17, 2024 3:00 PM

Looking beyond labels


William Woodworth

Marlborough painted the place pink in support for Pink Shirt Day on Friday, with the message to take a stand against bullying.

Local Pink Shirt Day champions and Marlborough Youth Trust youth workers Lee Tepuia, Maxine Sweeney and Lottie Savage spent much of the week travelling to and speaking at schools across Marlborough about the history and cause of the day.

The Marlborough Youth Trust team wants Marlburians of all ages to change their daily mindset and find positives about themselves and others, instead of continuing cycles of negative thoughts and actions.

On their visits stretching from Picton to Kaikoura, the team have made sure to lead by example on how people can live their messaging and bring positivity.

“When I see my coworkers, I want them to know “actually I genuinely care about you”. If you don't care about the people around you, you need to check on yourself”, says Maxine.

“People want change, but they don't want to create change, because creating it takes longer. It's hard. But you can create goodness and positivity easily.

Marlborough Girls College at morning tea.
Marlborough Girls' College staff
Pink nail polish galore at MGC morning tea

“We all crave kindness, we crave acceptance and want to be part of a group which as positively shows as a team mentality, and negatively presents as a bullying pack mentality.

“So isolating people due to any factor - race, appearance, gender, sexuality, disability, ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’- is a massively lonely place going against everything that we are wired to be as humans”.

Lee agrees, saying that while cycles of negativity and bullying are easy to pass to others, positivity is even easier to pass on.

“We’re opening up conversations acknowledging we're not all the same people and that while people are different, they may also have something that you admire”.

“Even a ‘good morning’, a positive start to the day can set someone else up for having a good day because positivity is infectious, and you can make someone’s day just by showing you care”.

"It is important we treat people in the way we would like to be treated ourselves", says Stuart Smith on Pink Shirt Day.
Marlborough Girls' College saw plenty of pink.

The Marlborough Youth Trust team have been living that positivity this week, with their own self-improvements.

“At our school talks, it was meant to just be Lee and I speaking but we decided no, all five of us are actually a team”, recalls Maxine.

“Then suddenly, five of us are standing up there with three of us secretly really uncomfortable - but they nailed it”.

“We're actively using that team mentality to positively reinforce love each other because what everyone brings to the team is important”.

Lottie says that negativity, especially in young people, is originating more and more from their self-image and negative comparisons.

“The whole anti bullying movement is reflecting on how we treat others, but also internal narrative, especially teenagers with how they use social media.

Police and Marlborough Youth Trust workers at Marlborough Boys College
Pink nails were the fashion at Marlborough Boys' College on Friday.

“The image of themselves is more negative than it has ever been, trying hold themselves to insane comparisons”.

“I just think that's so backwards rather than celebrating the positives we have, because if everyone was the same the world would be pretty boring!”

“It’s almost a cliché, but you should not only treat others how you want to be treated but treat yourself how you want to be treated too”.

“Especially when they're to help young people talking negatively about themselves I ask, ‘would you speak to your friend the way that you've just spoken to yourself?’

“That's usually a good way to reflect and say, ‘Oh, no, I'd never say that to my friend’. Well, why did you speak to yourself like that then?”

Ruby,. Sam, Lottie, Lee and Maxine (L/R) want to see more positivity on a daily basis across Marlborough to combat bullying at schools and workplaces.
RMA Insurance beought plenty of pink.

These lessons are shown throughout the Youth Trust, who operate with an open door, safe space policy and encourage all youth to follow their passions and be their true self.

“I wanted to be the cool kid, and it was cool for a while, but now realise I wanted to show this is something cool about me instead of trying to be what other kids thought was cool”, reflects Lee.

“We have our certain kids that want to connect with us more because of our stories, and the fact they feel comfortable with Maxine, or Lottie, or myself, or any of our other youth workers is a great first step to make”.

“It’s not just at the Trust either, kids that we get to come to the Box On Boxing gym have different backgrounds but connect really well because of having a shared passion.

“In a constructive, positive, inclusive environment, kids are so welcoming”.

Giesen winery team staff shared a pink morning tea. Photo: Supplied.
Giesen Wines' new Pink Shirt Day vests. Photo: Supplied

Maxine says that the Youth Trust is a place that encourages all kids to be their genuine, curious self, and thinks that’s a lesson for all ages.

“We hear ‘that kid's a bully’, you know, but when we see them here face to face they drop their guard down and be who they really are.

“But that side of them maybe had been taken advantage of in a variety of way, so gets hidden. They've never just naughty or aggressive kids, there’s always more to it”.

“Sometimes people think bullying is just a naughty kid against a geeky kid. But it's not, it's this hurt person projecting negativity to someone just because they’ve got a skill, an ability or a characteristic they want, or something they don’t understand behind them”.

“That can be having someone who loves you at home, which not everyone has, and the LGBT+ community - sexuality isn’t relevant to whether someone is a cool person".

But Maxine says change can start with everyone.

“Kids hold us in a high regard, but they think we haven't been through it.

“So if we're not talking about bullying and championing replacing it with positive talk, how do we get the kids to?”

Where to find help and support:

  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584
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