Chase teen brings pink shirts to Belgium

Rotary exchange student says Canadian idea taken up with enthusiasm by Belgians

Sylvie Paillard / Kamloops Daily News
February 27, 2013 01:00 AM

Rotary International youth exchange teen Michelle Davies and Communauté Educative Saint Jean-Baptiste teacher Deborah Cacciatore don pink shirts in celebration of the school's first anti-bullying day, which Davies brought to the Belgium school.

Pink Shirt Day became an international hit this week when a Chase teen took the anti-bullying campaign on her international Rotary youth exchange.

And Michelle Davies said she was stunned by her Belgian school's enthusiasm for the idea.

"Wow! What an incredible day!" the 19-year-old told the Daily News in an email on Wednesday. "Couldn't have ever imagined the success and support."

Davies, who is spending a year in Tamines, Belgium, said when she spotted all the online activities around the Canadian annual anti-bullying day, she decided to share it with her school.

"The video that originally triggered my idea was of a flash mob a number of Vancouver schools recently did at a Vancouver Giants game," she said. "There also was the video of the flash mob Vancouver schools did last year at a shopping centre, both very inspirational."

She drafted a letter for students and teachers explaining the origins of the campaign and incorporated that history into school wide presentations.

Nova Scotia Grade 12 students David Shepherd and Travis Price began the campaign in 2007 after a boy in Grade 9 was bullied for wearing pink during the first day of school.

The students brought 50 pink shirts to school in support and a movement was born.

In 2008, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell proclaimed Feb. 27 the provincial anti-bullying day.

The idea went over so well in Belgium, said Davies, that she expects it to become an annual event at the high school.

"The reaction has been extremely positive. I mean how can you be negative about something like this?" she said.

"Some students and teachers have even said that they wish I had brought it up sooner so they could have planned a flash mob of their own."

The enthusiasm seems to indicate a need for anti-bullying awareness in that community, and that's no surprise to Davies.

"If you ask me, no matter the country, language or culture, teenagers are just teenagers," she said.

"It may have been an event that started by two inspiring high school students but it carries an important message for people of all ages, origins and countries."

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