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Anti-bullying messenger

By Sophie Ryan

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STRONG MESSAGE: Brad Olsen is representing New Zealand on a Unicef Youth Ambassador venture to Suva, Fiji, to learn about tools for combating bullying .PHOTO/ JOHN STONE
STRONG MESSAGE: Brad Olsen is representing New Zealand on a Unicef Youth Ambassador venture to Suva, Fiji, to learn about tools for combating bullying .PHOTO/ JOHN STONE

A Whangarei teenager is travelling to Fiji to investigate what New Zealanders can do to stop bullying.

Brad Olsen, 17, a Unicef Youth Ambassador, is flying out to Suva today where he will spend six days talking to Pacific Islands Unicef ambassadors, the Fijian Ministries of Youth and Social Welfare and young people who have been affected by bullying.

Brad became passionate about finding solutions to bullying after seeing the toll it takes on young people around him.

His own experience with being bullied happened when he was in primary school. He said he was picked on on a couple of occasions, but found a teacher to support him through it.

"A teacher saw it happen and checked on me, and it didn't happen again after that."

He said it can be harder for high school students to find the same support, with bigger class sizes meaning teachers can miss the signs.

"I think with bullying, sometimes people don't realise they are doing it. It can be really subtle. People forget the long-term effects it can have.

"In Northland we have a really high rate of suicide and people need to remember [bullying] does harm the emotional side of young people."

Brad is keen to find out about the tools Fijian schools use to combat bullying and get a different perspective on the issue.

He will be investigating the Unicef MediActivist programme, which links young people around the Pacific with media to enable them to speak out on issues that are important to them.

He'll report back on his experiences through social media, and is planning to give a workshop in Whangarei focusing on the ideas he picks up.

The programme encourages young people to use social media such as Facebook to put an end to bullying.

"Often young people are bullied to make them feel small. The MediActivist programme is one way young people can step up and feel like they are someone, and doing something about it.

"Young people can have great ideas they want to share and can really want to say something, so this programme is a means to be heard."

A chance to see Unicef's work overseas has been Brad's goal since being named a Youth Ambassador in February.

The Whangarei Boys' High School student was awarded the Old Boys' Association Hutley Prize for his trip abroad for his services to Unicef.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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