When we think of someone being bullied, we often imagine a smaller child, being pushed by a taller child, in a school corridor. The bully often looks mean, face plastered with a snarling grin, the victim, cowering in the corner, awaiting their terrible fate.  This is how bullying is often depicted on our screens, and within children’s books. However, bullying is far more complex. It is can be in many forms including verbal, physical, cyber or emotional.  It doesn’t need to take place in a school setting, to be considered bullying. It can occur at any age, anywhere, including within your own home, and even online.

Anti-Bullying Week is aimed at raising awareness of bullying and sending a positive message that is neither acceptable nor inevitable within our schools and communities. Nearly 1 in 5 children experienced bullying the past year, with figures worsening during lockdown.

The urgency to intervene when someone is being bullied, can often be delayed due to misconceptions held of bullying and its lasting impact.  Individuals may believe that, ‘bullying is a part of growing up’ or ‘it helps sensitive children toughen up.’ However, these misconceptions can have a devastating impact on the child, both through their childhood and into adulthood.

Children who are bullied are more likely to:

  • Become socially withdrawn or isolated
  • Have low self esteem
  • Result in decrease academic achievement
  • Suffer from anxiety and or depression

Vulnerability makes them a target

Research has shown that children who are vulnerable are more at risk of either in engaging in bullying behaviour or being the victim of bullying behavior – such as those who are perceived as different by their peers. This can be due to how they look, dress, walk, or talk.  Children who also come across as isolated, unable to defend themselves or are less popular can be at risk.

These children, with no fault of their own, are often seen as targets within a classroom or playground setting.  The EU-funded Coping Project found the UK had the highest proportion of children reporting bullying in school as a direct result of having a parent in prison (22% self-reporting, 30% according to reports from parents – figures believed to be an underestimate).

Children in HHUGS families are among these children. Already marginalised, isolated and suffering from lasting traumatic events, they are increasingly vulnerable.

For these children, their homes were once safe sanctuaries; filled with memories and laughter, a place where they could prosper and grow. However, with a parent taken from them during a dawn raid, and their mother now struggling to run their home, their home no longer provides the safety they need.

Financial instability can have a detrimental impact on a household. Not being able to feed, clothe and support children through their academic life, can have lasting effects on them both physically and emotionally.

These children turn to school, thinking those hours will provide a brief solace. A place where they will get a warm meal and some distraction from their reality.

But HHUGS children toss and turn in their beds, praying that the night stretches a little longer. The school bell is a taunting alarm of what terror lay ahead in the playground and corridors. They are unable to blend in, to just be one of the other students.  Many of their communities may already know their story, or what has happened to them.

“The police took our brothers to school in a police car so everyone found out about the arrest. I was too upset to go to school at the time. I remember in year 7, a girl came up to me when she found out whose daughter I was and told me that her dad said not to speak to me. Then she told all the other girls at school not to speak to me either”.

Many lose friends, and are further isolated. They roam the school playground alone, as others distance themselves from them.  This can have a lasting impact on these children. Even those, we assume can ‘take care of themselves’ or ‘never be bullied’ can be impacted.

“My little one became very withdrawn and especially my older boy who was very supportive, strong and confident; the first time I heard that he was being bullied by someone; that was unheard of, because he never gave a chance to anyone to bully him, he wasn’t aggressive but he didn’t give anyone a chance to bully him. He was being bullied, lots of friends and the class mocked him – there was a lot of stress – it affected him more than anyone.”

A torn uniform

Already isolated, and struggling to shake the stares and whispers, HHUGS children stand out for not having the correct uniform.  School uniforms can be costly, especially during the growing years, where it needs to be replaced often.  Single mothers are unable to afford to provide this for their children. They start the new school term, with the incorrect uniform.  

This makes them stand out, further marking them as a target for bullying.

The Back to School Campaign helped HHUGS children start school with their head held high, by providing them with the correct school uniform and essentials. 

With your support, the lives of these children have changed for the better. It lifted the burden of their mothers and gave these children a chance to turn their life around. 90% of families surveyed in 2020 said it helped them stay out of debt (9 or 10 on a scale) and significantly helped their families financially.

“May Allah bless everyone that has played a role in supporting us. The vouchers came at the right time when I was left with very little due to school expenditure, it brought a feeling of relief.”

It has supported families, who had nowhere else to turn. With no hope of being able to provide their child with the best start for September.

“As a wife of prisoner with no family support from anyone other than HHUGS, I can honestly say words cannot describe how much this support helped to stay on top of my financial difficulties. Had it not being for HHUGS I don’t know where I would be getting these kind of expenses covered. May Allah reward everyone who donated, provided us with this financial relief. May Allah build you all of you a house in Jannatul-Firdous. Ameen.”

The chill brings its own problems

As Winter settles in, and the chill lingers in each corner of our home, we wrap up warmer. We buy our children new coats, hats and socks to match, especially during the cold mornings, as they make their way to school, we rest assured that we have equipped them with clothing to keep them warm.

Within HHUGS households, children walk to school slowly. They do not want to enter the school gates dressed in coats a size too small.  Single mothers have been unable to buy their children with coats for the new season. Some may be too small, some torn, some hand me downs.  Some shoes that they wear may have holes within them. They are ill-equipped for the chill, which can lead to illness.

They too, like your children, deserve to be protected from the cold.  They too, deserve to go to school, with their head held high, in a new coat or warmer clothing.

This Winter, join us and provide them with Winter clothing, to keep them protected.