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Crystal Palace charity Beat Bullying aiming to go global

PUBLISHED: 09:42 16 May 2013 | UPDATED: 09:42 16 May 2013

Pictures of Tom Mclaren-Webb

Pictures of Tom Mclaren-Webb

Archant

Almost half of young people say they have been bullied in school at some point in their lives.

The forms of intimidation have progressed in recent years from playground name calling and physical threats to cyberbullying which leaves little escape for victims.

Based in Belvedere Road, Crystal Palace, Beat Bullying is a charity started 10 years ago from the home of Emma Jane-Cross which has since spread across Europe.

Its aim is to work with youngsters in schools and colleges to help them recognise and stop bullying of all kinds.

“Cyberbullying is more prevalent these days than any other type,” says the charity’s director of social action, Tom McLaren Webb.

“I remember when no one had a mobile phone and no one was online. Bullying, to an extent, stopped at the school gates, but now you can be at home and it can still reach you. Our role is to give young people the skills to be able to stop bullying, but we also show them what it’s like to experience it.”

Through various activities in its two-day workshops, Beat Bullying tackles the problem in schools and also increases the number of cases reported.

That may sound like a contradiction, but Tom says the large increase in reported cases just means that bullying which was always going on unseeen becomes visible and can then be dealt with.

He said: “Our workshops can involve role-playing to show what it can feel like to be bullied, and through sports games we can show what it’s like to be the odd one out.

“Cases do reduce in the schools and colleges we visit, and the increase in reported cases just shows we give the youngsters the courage to come forward and speak out.”

Bullying victims can often keep the ordeal to themselves through fear or shame at being labelled a ‘grass’ or ‘snitch’.

Beat Bullying offers an online chat space where victims can speak to young volunteer mentors who may have experienced bullying, as well as older volunteers and counsellors.

“There’s a stigma attached to being bullied,” says Tom. “They think it reflects badly on them, and as a result they can stop seeing their friends and their school attendance drops. Their entire life is affected.

“We have levels of support online, ranging from young mentors to experienced people with more life experience, and counsellors for cases where people may have reached a point where they’re considering suicide.”

Though the Crystal Palace charity only employs some 50 people, its reach extends across Europe and beyond thanks to a network of thousands of online volunteer mentors stretching from “Bromley to Bahrain”, according to Tom.

While working closely with local schools, including by taking former prime minister Gordon Brown to Langley Park School, Beckenham, the charity is also aiming to expand worldwide.

Beat Bullying’s presence is now felt in Greece, where it recently delivered volunteer training, as well as in Romania and Portugal.

Tom said: “We’ve just expanded into Europe and we aim to go global, but we did our first borough campaign in Bromley where we trained up loads of kids and we have good relationships with lots of local schools. We have never forgotten our local roots. They have helped make us what we are today.”

To learn more about Beat Bullying or speak to an online mentor, visit beatbullying.org.

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