Battling the bully, a word at a time
Hong Kong is no stranger to precocious kids, so when we heard about one student who used his writing power for a good cause, we just had to take notice. Cameron Su, a junior at Hong Kong International School, decided to tackle the important subject of bullying by writing a novel based on experiences he witnessed at school. Working with the anti-bullying campaign, Kids4Kids, Cameron is helping to educate kids around the globe about how hurtful and detrimental bullying can be. We chatted with Cameron to get the inside details to his story…
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Singapore in 2000, grew up in Hong Kong and I’m currently a junior at the Hong Kong International School (HKIS). I serve as co-captain of the school’s golf team and a member of the percussion section in the Wind Ensemble. If asked, I would admit playing rock drums [is my favourite]. In August 2017, I placed third in the Asia-Pacific division (16 and under) for the Hong Kong International Drummer Festival. In college, I would probably opt for a major in economics and finance and a minor in creative writing or literature.
What inspired you to write the novel “Memories Cached”?
As “Memories Cached” is semi-anecdotal, the plot line and overall pace of the novel is driven by real-life and fictional events. During my middle school years, I encountered and witnessed several instances of bullying. The novel is somewhat of a cathartic experience, as I attempt to relay the impact of bullying on my psyche, in addition to the overt actions I faced in student life. No doubt some of the experiences faced by the protagonist, Dominic Chiu, will resonate with readers. The novel is not intended to indict transgressors; rather, it will hopefully start additional discussions [about] a sensitive subject, faced by students, parents, teachers and administrators alike. I began drafting the novel more than three years ago, revising, editing and rewriting drafts from time to time. During the course of my research for the novel, I soon realised the deep impact of bullying – both traditional bullying and cyber-bullying – throughout Asia. I chose Singapore as the setting for the novel after discovering that the island-state ranks third in Asia for bullying among 15-year-olds, as highlighted in a 2015 survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Hong Kong is listed as 16th in OECD countries.
Tell us about the anti-bullying campaign you’re doing with Kids4Kids.
I applied for and secured a stipend from Kids4Kids Hong Kong through its Act!on for a Cause (AFAC) program, which co-funded the publishing project. The book will be distributed and sold in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, with additional markets added in early 2018. During part two of the AFAC program, I will be paired with a mentor (Kids4Kids Founder Michele Lai), who will work with me to secure the assistance of a professional clinical psychologist expert in mental health issues facing teens. We will then work together to host a few seminars and presentations in Hong Kong public and private schools, addressing anti-bullying and related causes. In addition to Kids4Kids Hong Kong and its chapter at HKIS, StartUp HK (another HKIS club) supports the entrepreneurial aspects of the novel project, including setting up a dedicated website for the novel and promotional events.
What do you hope to achieve with your message from the campaign and your novel?
Myriad themes arise from the plot line; however, one leading message is that a teen’s cyber presence should remain in check. As exhilarating as social media acceptance may be or perceived to be, mocking another by way of an errant uploading of a video, however short in length, may prove to be as damaging or more hurtful than a physical assault. Although the novel does not seek to provide direct guidance on how to handle bullying, one key element is to remain calm and refrain from retaliating if provoked. A few less obvious forms of bullying also emanate from the story, such as social exclusion (overt actions to shut out another from associating with a group) and student safety issues (where bullying results in endangering a student’s well-being).
How can Sassy Mama readers support your initiative?
“Memories Cached” and its associated anti-bullying campaign may help to propel the issue of bullying to the forefront of discussions in the schools, at home, in the media and on the Internet. It is incumbent on parents to check in on their children on a regular basis to recognise hints that bullying may have been encountered, either as a victim or otherwise (that is, as perpetrator or even a bystander). Unfortunately, bullies engage in actions because they are able to get away with their actions, either because there is no one to intervene or bystanders indirectly sanction them. Millennials are at risk daily, even without the presence of bullying, due to the high pressures exacted upon them by schoolwork, family, social relationships and society in general. Our efforts to combat bullying, whatever shape it takes form, must be a cumulative and collaborative effort.
Of course, through Kids4Kids Hong Kong, I stand ready to field any concerns and requests from the Sassy Mama audience to further discuss the ever-pressing issues of traditional and cyber bullying as they may affect students in our society.
Photos courtesy of Cameron Su.