Thursday 1 February 2007

Mary launches Save the Children anti-bullying project

Today Crown Princess Mary has launched the Save the Children anti-bullying project. Mary has been very involved in this work with Save the Children for several years now and has used material and experience from Australia to help develop the current project in Denmark. As we know, Mary visited the Aspendale Gardens Primary School in Melbourne to see the Better Buddies program in action there on her recent visit to Australia. Mary first took material back to Denmark from Australia after the 2005 visit. The launch took place at a kindergarten called Bumblebee in Hellerup.

Crown Princess Mary's speech (in Danish)
Added: the speech in Danish also on the Save the Children website and here is a translation of Mary's speech:

Bullying is defined as 'a repeated exposure to negative acts - verbal, social, physical, material and electronic'.
This defintion is from the Danish Center of Educational Environment, which also concludes:
"When bullying happens in school, it is a sign of bad psychological and educational climate, which seriously infects the social relations, the norms and the group dynamics. When these conditions are unhealthy, the conditions for bullying can grow."
Recently I experienced a unique pedagogical environment. It was at Aspendale Garden Primary School in Melbourne, a school for children aged 5 to 12 years. It is one of the 800 schools which use the Australian 'Better Buddies' program, which has been developed by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. Better Buddies means "bedre kammerater" (in Danish ).
We are definitely going to hear more about the Australian program, but in short: Better Buddies is a national preventive educational program, developed to reduce bullying and to create a safe instututional and school environment . The main theme is: 'It's cool for a big child to keep watch over a smaller child'. And a special teddy bear is used as a mascot. The teddy symbolises the core values of the program in relation to the school culture.
And that is exactly what I experienced. A school where the spirit is totally guided by the values of the program. The walls of the school were covered with examples of the children's work in relation to the better Better Buddies' program.
I was lucky and met the genuine 'Buddy Bear', who was just as funny as he looks. The schools' headmaster told me about the specific results they have achieved since the program was introduced. I had the opportunity to talk with enthusiastic teachers, who were happy with the valuable tools and positive effects they could see and record over time in their classes. And not least I had opportunity to talk with the children and participate in their regular 'Buddies sessions'.
It was a pleasure to bear witness the friendship between big and small children which was visible when they were working together on a project together.
I was also impressed by their answers to my many questions. Their responses weren't learned by rote. This was very clear when I asked, for instance, "What is tolerance?" The kids formulated their own interpretations. I asked a 5-year-old girl 'What does empathy mean?", which is a fairly difficult question, I thought, for a kid of that age. Her answer was "If I see someone fall down in the school yard, then I will go over to them and ask if they are okay and if I can help". I asked another one, what 'acceptance' means, and the answer was, that it is important to understand, that we are all different, and that this makes life more interesting.
A girl who came from another school, where bullying was a part of her daily life, is doing fine today at Aspendale Garden Primary School. She says that the spirit is always positive and that everybody is ready to help and support each other.
I was enthusiastic for the program even before my visit, and now after I experienced what it means when the program is integrated in the school culture, I was totally won over.
I have some qoutes from kids and parents, who are associated with Yarram Primary School, another Australian school which is part of the Buddy program. These quotes I would like to share with you:
"Our family accepted the idea of the buddy system immediately when our daughter was constantly talking about "the big girl who showed me everything". The trust, the security and friendship she has gained has provided her with confidence and comfort. She has become a self assured little girl who knows that she always has someone to rely on. She has already made plans to be a 'good buddy' herself, just like her current buddy.
Another mother says:
"'Buddies' is such a great idea, the younger children can have an older friend and a positive role model and the bigger children get a sense of responsibility and someone to look out for."
And the kids say:
"My little buddy has learned if they are bullied to walk away and tell a teacher instead of getting into trouble, because they know that two wrongs don't make a right."
And lastly:
" We do buddies because we want the little buddies [smallest children] to learn how not to bully.
My role as international sponsor for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation was made public in October 2005. I said 'yes' to the task because I would like to support their goal and becuase I was impressed by their postive achievements.
For this reason it was natural for me to think of Denmark, and whether the many good ideas and tools against bullying developed by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation could be used here.
I talked to Red Barnet [Save the Children], who were ready immediately to take on the idea and modify and use the experiences from Australia to help to prevent bullying in Denmark.
The contact was created between Red Barnet and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. Red Barnet created a steering commitee to help start the program, which involved modifying and developing the Australian program to suit Danish conditions.
I have been a member of this commitee, which has existed for almost a year. It has been exiciting to co-operate with smart and engaged members of the commitee. And it has been an incredibly inspiring process to get to this day, where Red Barnet introduces 'Free of Bullying' - a pilot project, which is going to help to prevent bullying in Danish kindergartens.
All together too many children are bullied by mates in kindergarten and in school, and it is a severe daily stress for these kids. Bullying can ultimatively mean that kids are going to be socially isolated. Until now most work against bullying has been focused on older school children in Denmark.
Research and experience from Australia indicates that we have to focus efforts at a much earlier age. The sooner the better, with far fewer consequences for the individual and for society.
For this reason, Red Barnet's "Free of Bullying" project focuses early on children in kindergartden.
"Free of Bullying" has three focus groups. Teachers, who work to be inspirational and role models. Parents, who are encouraged to support the activities at the institution or school, and last - but not least - the children, who must have a secure and a safe environtment in institutions and school life.
But bullying is not only about who are bullied and who does the bullying. The focus must also be on the whole group of children and the passive group members who just look on.
The purpose of the project is to create good relationships and solidarity between the children. The ambition is to create good child communities in the kindergarten environment, which is then later taken to the school environment.
As a mother I am obviously engaged in the subject. I can't bear the thought that my son would be exposed to bullying or would bully others. We all have a responsibility as parents and teachers to teach our children to create communities - and to make the children's lives 'free of bullying'.
Tolerance, respect, compassion and courage are the focus values in the project of Red Barnet.
The sooner we teach our kids these values the better. By using the tools which Red Barnet has developed the children will learn to show tolerance, respect, compassion and courage in their daily life with each other.
As in Australia the mascot of the project is a teddy. It looks a bit different than its Australian cousin, for a good reason....
I want to express my gratitude towards Red Barnet for making this big effort to introduce 'Free Of Bullying' in Denmark.
I am looking forward to keeping track of the work to prevent bullying in kindergarten, and it is my hope that the project will spread out to other kindergartens and in schools all over the country, and who knows - perhaps to other countries as well.
I am sure that "Free of Bullying" will help to give our children the best possibilities to develop and see what they can do. (thanks to santa for translation!)

Mary is the patron The Alannah & Madeline Foundation
Check out The Alannah and Madeline Foundation which runs the Better Buddies anti-bullying program in schools

Mary går til kamp mod mobning Jyllands Posten
The Copenhagen Post
Save the Children they have a photo gallery posted. Frederik is actually the patron of Save the Children in Denmark, but ths project is something Mary has worked on in particular. In Australia in 2005 they were both involved in the anti-bullying meetings.

Added: Mum-to-be Mary helps kids become better buddies Hello! magazine

Added: Australian National Nine News (1:35)
Princess Mary endorses Aussie school program
Princess Mary has proven contact with her roots by endorsing the introduction of an Australian student socialising programme into Danish schools - Nine News actually had a reporter there (not usual) and Save the Children's Mimi Jakobsen speaks of Mary's close involvement in developing the program for the Danish situation. video clip
TV Sputnik video clip

Bully blitz for Danes from February 1, 2007 The Herald Sun (Melbourne)

Mary til kamp mod mobning TV2 article
TV2 photo gallery (24 photos)

From The Copenhagen Post:

A royal ban on bullying

Drawing on a programme from her home country, Crown Princess Mary is hoping a purple bear will teach kids a lesson about tolerance.
The former politician was there. The mayor was there. The crown princess was even there. But most importantly for the kids, Buddy was there.
Buddy is Buddy Bear, mascot of the Australian Better Buddies programme against bullying and one of Denmark's newest immigrants. The grape bubble gum coloured bear was given a royal introduction to children at one Copenhagen pre-school Thursday by his fellow Aussie, Crown Princess Mary.
The Crown Princess learned about the Better Buddies Initiative as the international patron for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, an Australia-based charity that works to keep children safe from violence and creators of the programme.
As mother to 18-month-old Prince Christian and carrying her second child, she said the fear that her own children could be bullied - or become bullies themselves - led her join together with Save the Children Denmark to import the initiative to her new country.
Crown Princess Mary said she was 'sold' on Better Buddies, which teaches children to care about the other children around them, as soon as she witnessed it in action a primary school in Melbourne, Australia.
'It's cool for big kids to take care of younger ones,' she said yesterday.
Danish programmes to prevent bullying have typically been aimed at elementary school children, but new studies show that the earlier children learn to show respect for each other, the more likely it is to ave a lasting effect.
Initially, the Better Buddies programme will be implemented in three Danish pre-schools. Child behaviour experts from the Roskilde University will follow its progress and, if it proves successful, Save the Children hopes other countries will pick up on the idea.
Another new wrinkle in Save the Children's initiative will be to teach kids to step in when they see bullying.
Save the Children Denmark president Mimi Jacobsen, a former cabinet member, said she hoped the programme would help put an end to a nightmare some children can't escape from.
'It's always there, even when they go to bed. We hope our project will make bullying unthinkable.' The Copenhagen Post

Mary sætter fokus på børnenes mobberi from B.T. 'Mary sets the focus on anti-bullying among children'

Several articles in advance of the launch:
TV2 article:

Mary against bullying

”Spared from bullying” should help Danish children to treat each other with respect. The project comes from Australia and is being introduced by Crown Princess Mary. With inspiration from Australia, the children in Danish kindergartens will learn to treat each other with tolerance and respect. “Spared from bullying” has been developed by Save The Children and is to be carried through in co-operation with Gentofte, Århus and Kolding municipalities. Crown Princess Mary launches the project when she visits the Bumblebee kindergarten on Thursday.
Crown Princess Mary also got to show off her new haircut today, when she visited Glostrup Observation and Treatment Home as patron of the Children’s Aid Foundation. The Home is where of some of the most exposed children are cared for, for example children who have been removed from their parents.
(many thanks ambiDk!)

The Herald Sun (Melbourne):

Mary backs anti-bully drive
January 31, 2007 12:00am

CROWN Princess Mary of Denmark has thrown her support behind an Australian program to stamp out childhood bullying.
The former Tasmanian will launch a similar program in Denmark tomorrow in a bid to eradicate bullying in Danish schools and kindergartens.
The program is based on an Australian scheme called the Better Buddies Framework by The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, of which the princess is an international patron.
The foundation's general manager of prevention, Maree Stanley, said bullying was one of the most common forms of violence experienced by children.
"It can have devastating effects on a child, such as a fear of going to school, depression and even suicide," Ms Stanley said.
Princess Mary made a surprise visit to Aspendale Gardens Primary School in Victoria during her visit in November last year to observe how the Better Buddies Framework could be used as a benchmark for the Danish program.
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation's chairman John Bertrand said it was honoured Mary was introducing an affiliated program in Denmark.
"The involvement of Danish schools in this very important children's program will enhance the relationship between our countries and build strong bonds through our children," Mr Bertrand said.
Princess Mary said children had the right to feel safe at school and in the community.
"The work of the foundation in helping young children who are the victims of violence or bullying is a fine example of helping to realise a better society for everyone," she said.
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation will this year launch a new edition of Better Buddies into pilot schools across Australia in a bid to stamp out bullying.
More than 700 schools nationally have participated in the Framework.
The foundation was established following the Port Arthur tragedy and aims to keep children safe from violence.

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