By Olivia Gardner with Emily and Sarah Buder
The story of Olivia Gardner, a young girl from Northern California who was bullied because she had an epileptic seizure in front of her classmates, has spread from one media venue to another. It was by learning of her story that two other girls, Emily and Sarah Buder, decided to start a letter writing campaign to raise Olivia's spirits. They could not have imagined the amount of letters they would receive from strangers all around the country drawn to Olivia because of a memory her story stirred within them of a time they were bullied or even when they themselves were the bullies.
Olivia has received close to 3,000 letters from people sharing their own stories and experiences on how they overcame a tough time in their lives to become successful adults. But they still remember the time they were bullied or bullies, often in great detail, as it was traumatic and life changing for them.
Letters to a Bullied Girl is a compilation of the letters to Olivia from The Bully, The Bullied, and The Parent/Teacher/Bystander.
Olivia shares her story in the beginning of the book along with a foreword by Barbara Coloroso, an expert on this troubling issue.
About the Author
Olivia Gardner is a 14 year old Middle School student from Novato California who was bullied for more than two years at three different schools after having an epileptic seizure one day in class.
Emily and Sarah Buder, sisters from Mill Valley, first learned of Olivia's story in March 2007 and were inspired to ask fellow students to write letters to raise Olivia's spirits.
At a time when bullying runs rampant in New Zealand schools, play grounds, and even work places, Letters to a Bullied Girl serves to raise awareness of the prevalence of bullying, the many forms it takes, the stakeholders involved, why it happens, and most importantly what we can do as a community to combat it.
As an adult who still carries the physical scars from bullying, Letters to a Bullied Girl immediately catapulted me back to my intermediate school years: the feelings of helplessness, desperation, and the sheer terror of going to school and having to face the taunting, teasing and physical violence I was subjected to on a daily basis. I guess you could say that I was lucky - there were no mobile phones back then and the internet didn't exist. Social networking was limited to the play ground and the only way to communicate with your peers was either in person or on the telephone (which was generally located in a central part of your family home permanently attached by a curly cord).
Whilst the accounts of verbal, emotional and physical abuse are at times disturbing, and the recurring words of "I don't know why I did it" from the bullies is upsetting, as a whole I found Letters to a Bullied Girl to be equally comforting and healing. Although addressed to Olivia, the letters serve to assure all victims that they are not alone in their experiences, that it is the bullies who are weak, and above all else, that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel.
Congratulations Emily and Sarah for taking the initiative to make a difference through their letter writing campaign. Moreover, thank you to Olivia for having the courage to share her story so that other victims of bullying can find encouragement and inspiration. May past, present and potential bullies learn about the devastating effects of their actions and may every bystander feel empowered to intervene and put an end to bullying once and for all.
Letters to a Bullied Girl is a must read for all young people and anyone who has ever experienced bullying.