One high school student's mission to reduce bullying

When Ryan Si was in Grade 10, he felt inspired to make a difference in his school community and help improve the lives of his peers. He enrolled in a Canadian Red Cross workshop called Beyond the Hurt, designed to empower youth with the skills and knowledge to respond to bullying situations in a safe and healthy way. The workshop had such an impact on Ryan that he became a Red Cross Youth Facilitator, teaching the workshop to his fellow students at Johnston Heights Secondary School in Surrey, B.C.

“I had a lot of problems with bullying when I grew up,” said Ryan. “The workshop gave me a support group of peers and a real community. It gave me what I was looking for in that it taught me how to deal with these situations and empowered me to help others.”

Through this two-day workshop, Ryan joined a team of thousands of Youth Facilitators across Canada who, each year, reach almost 750,000 young people to build safer, more inclusive communities. One of the workshop’s unique qualities is youth are learning these lessons from their peers, which resonates differently than when they’re taught by teachers or other adults.  Some Beyond the Hurt workshops are led by teachers, but in many schools, students like Ryan take that responsibility on themselves.

The importance of empathy

“When it comes to being a Youth Facilitator, or a compassionate person in general, it’s so important to understand that there is always a story behind both sides of a conflict,” said Ryan, explaining that empathy is central to the lessons in the workshop. “For example, we don’t use the word ‘bully’ because we understand sometimes these categories can be interchangeable. Sometimes the ‘bully’ can be ‘bullied’. The two-day workshop really put into perspective what a person can go through, from all facets.”

Youth facilitators take the sense of community they gain through the workshop and in turn, they build community throughout their school. “During the workshop we talked a lot about the importance of being inclusive. When we’re building community as a team of Youth Facilitators, we can always count on each other to be inclusive and to help someone’s day be better. You’ll always see another facilitator helping someone else in the hallways.”

“We all went into this program knowing exactly why we joined,” said Ryan. “It helped to give us some skills and abilities that helped us to be better people.”

Developing skills for the future

The workshop not only provides step-by-step guides for handling bullying behaviour, it also teaches students how to use constructive, healthy communication in other everyday contexts. “There are ways of empathizing with people, ways of speaking to them, that we learned that are so applicable to day-to-day activities.”

For example, Ryan’s developed an interest in public speaking, and he finds the lessons in the workshop helped him develop that skill as well. “When I speak in front of a large audience, or when I work on a project with a classmate, I often refer back to the skills I learned in those two days.” He’s able to apply what he learned to help him relate to people in all sorts of contexts.
What he’ll leave behind

Ryan is graduating this year, but hopes to remain involved with the program in the coming years. “After high school, I hope to stay involved with the Red Cross. It’s never really finished, even after I leave high school. There’s always more I could do in university or maybe I could come back to help train other Youth Facilitators in my school.” 

In the three years he’s been helping to train new prospective facilitators in his school, there’ve been approximately 80-90 students involved in the workshop. “I’m hoping the level of impact I’ve had over the last three years as a Youth Facilitator will inspire other kids to do the same.”
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