WHY I CREATED THE #ALWAYSBEKIND CAMPAIGN
Siena Castellon is a National Youth Board Member, Diana Award Holder and Anti-Bullying Activist. Earlier this year she launched her #AlwaysBeKind Campaign on social media to spread a message of kindness across the globe. This is her story.
17 September 2018
The #AlwaysBeKind campaign was motivated by my traumatic experience of being bullied at school for most of my life. I have been forced to leave one primary school and two secondary schools because of bullying. Apart from the violence, insults and false rumours, one of the worst things about being bullied was that, although there were lots of bystanders, not a single person intervened. Eventually, some of the bystanders would join in too, leaving me ostracised, isolated and alone.
I created the #AlwaysBeKind campaign so that other students don’t suffer the way I did. I believe my bullying experience would have been very different if one person had shown me some kindness. It only takes one person to speak up and stand up. Each one of us has the power to make a difference. I believe that seemingly small, incremental acts of kindness and compassion can change the overall dynamic of a school community, so that everyone is welcomed, included and accepted for who they are.
Siena at a National Anti-Bullying Youth Board event in London.
I was bullied because I am autistic. Sadly, I am not the only person who has been bullied for being autistic. According to a 2017 survey by Ditch the Label, 75% of autistic students reported being bullied, and 70% of students with a physical disability reported being bullied. Having a disability is hard, the last thing we need is to be abused, ridiculed and ostracized by our peers. Everyone has a right to feel safe and to be happy at school. We are no different. Whether or not you have a disability, all students have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. We all need our peers to be tolerant, encouraging and supportive and most importantly, to be accepting of who we are.
The #AlwaysBeKind campaign was created to remind us that acts of kindness can change the world. One act of kindness, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, has the power to transform someone’s day. Kindness is a universal language; kindness transcends social and cultural barriers. As part of the campaign, I created an Instagram page featuring photographs of young people wearing the Diana Award slogan “Young People Can Change the World” in different settings and locations around the world. This summer, I took photos in Ireland, Iceland, Canada and the United States. The campaign highlights that no matter where you are or where you come from, kindness is a common thread that ties us all together.
I believe that every school has upstanders: students who are kind and are willing to help a vulnerable student who is being mistreated, students who have the courage and fortitude to help someone in need.
Please join me, The Diana Award National Anti-Bullying Youth Board and the 28,000 Anti-Bullying Ambassadors across the UK to take a stance against bullying. Before you say anything hurtful or unkind to someone, take a moment to walk in that person’s shoes. Be the person who builds your peers up, instead of tearing them down. If you witness someone being bullied, step up, stand up and speak up. You have the power to make a positive difference in someone’s life by being an upstander and not a bystander. By calling out others when their actions are unkind and creating a school community that speaks out against, and stands up to, bullying, collectively we can ensure that all young people have safe and happy school experiences.
It is my hope, that every young person start the new school year pledging to be an upstander at their school. Princess Diana believed that every young person can change the world. Why not take the first step towards following in Princess Diana’s legacy by being kind to a fellow student who is being bullied?