Crowded around one of their favourite princesses, three little girls bombard her with questions, but not the kind most would expect.
“How were you affected by bullying?” asks a pint-sized Elsa look-alike. “Can you teach me how to stop the other kids if they’re picking on me?”
For children on the Moraviantown Reserve (southwest of London), getting the chance to chat with some of their comic book and movie idols is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and these were exactly the kinds of questions organizers were hoping would be asked.
“We live in a really rural area, whereas kids in the city have a lot more access to good programs. Out here not a lot of speakers want to come this far out to do a talk,” said Ira Timothy, who came up with the idea to bring London cosplayers home to talk to the kids in his community about the affects of bullying. “A lot of kids around here are going to grow up never getting the chance to have that impression or experience, so I think it’s really important they can have someone who can relate to them and make that important connection.”
Unlike programs students may experience in the city, Timothy said talking to kids on the reserve gives them a chance to deal with other issues associated with bullying.
“I think it’s more important that we bring attention to it here because, among my people, there are elements of racism that come with bullying,” he explained. “It can really hurt to be called things that are racial stereotypes like ‘Injun’ or ‘Indian giver.’ Kids can be cruel, especially because they don’t know the terms they throw around.”
At the end of the day, Timothy said the group had its best response ever.
“Some of the girls who came up and talked on the microphone are the shyest girls on the reserve,” he said. “They don’t usually talk and the fact they came up and did that today . . . really shows how much this is sinking in to them.”
In fact, for Devon, 5, who counted all six cosplayers as his favourite, the message definitely got through.
“I learned you shouldn’t bully,” he said. “It’s bad and it hurts peoples’ feelings.”
The costume event was part of the Delaware Nation’s Community Wellness Week, a program designed to bring awareness about addiction and other concerns within the community.
“What we want to do is try to ensure that it becomes a family process,” said Gordon Peters, one of the counsellors at Moraviantown Reserve. “We’ve established ourselves as a declaration-against-drugs community,
but when we started we thought there’s no use just focusing on drugs, we should be trying to help build families. That’s what the children need to see is adults being able to do this.”
One of the most important events of the week, according to Peters, is the awards and acknowledgements given out the to reserve’s high school graduates, with all 10 headed to university this year.
“To us, if you’re fighting about drugs, it’s building self-esteem in people,” he said. “It’s showing people that you care, and showing us that we have a community spirit, we’re able to come together and share, laugh and have a good time.”