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Girls launch anti-bullying campaign

PUBLISHED: 14:55 02 July 2008 | UPDATED: 14:37 07 July 2010

It's been an amazing and inspiring journey for four teenagers from bullying victims to pioneering anti-bullying campaigners.

Twins Ria and Ellice Bush, 17, their sister Neola, 14, and friend Harriet Gilford, 15, have launched an innovative project called Just Smile which allows young people being bullied to take the first vital step to getting help.

It's been an amazing and inspiring journey for four teenagers from bullying victims to pioneering anti-bullying campaigners.

Twins Ria and Ellice Bush, 17, their sister Neola, 14, and friend Harriet Gilford, 15, have launched an innovative project called Just Smile which allows young people being bullied to take the first vital step to getting help.

One in three youngsters is affected by bullying during their school life

The group - all members of the Watton Air Cadets - have already won a range of awards for their initiative, including a Caribbean cruise, and on Saturday they launched their Just Smile boxes.

Seventy five have so far been produced and will be put up in schools across East Anglia - and two will even be going to Scotland and Canada after inquiries to their website.

They hope the project will go nationwide and also expand into workplaces to help adults being bullied.

The secured yellow boxes are put on the wall and have a slot in the top into which messages can be put and then regularly checked by staff.

They have also produced 15,000 leaflets, which include translations into Portuguese.

The key message of the project is “Don't suffer, speak out, just smile.”

The girls all said it was crucial to allow bullying victims to express their emotions and speak confidentially and it was often difficult to speak to someone.

Bullying can be verbal, physical, undermining language and using new technology.

Ria and Ellice, who live at Shipdham and are students at Dereham Sixth Form College, were both cyber bullied and had the inspiration 18 months ago to launch the project.

Ria said bullying left victims like her in tears every night and she was able to tell a teacher - but others found it more difficult.

“We wanted a way of allowing children to be able to say they were being bullied rather than having to face a teacher, as that was putting them off. Sometimes adults think young people are making a mountain out of a molehill. We've had our highs and lows but today is really amazing,” she said.

Ellice added that bullying can leave you paranoid. “You take everything everyone says to heart.”

Neola, who is a pupil at Dereham Neatherd High School, said: “18 months ago we never thought it would take off like this.”

Harriet, of Old Buckenham, who goes to the village high school, said: “When you are bullied you feel very small and you think everyone is laughing at you and you do not know who to turn to or where to go. I have got so much more confidence out of this.”

Among the guests at the launch was high sheriff of Norfolk, Viscountes Knollys, who said: “It is brilliant and I am so proud of them. They have managed to get so many people excited about it. They have got the funding and made a really professional product and it is a wonderful achievement.”

There were also speeches by Neatherd High School pastoral teacher Dan Guiney and senior education psychologist Rita Adair.

One of the awards the girls won was the WHAM project by Norfolk PACT and project manager Teresa Tucker said they had previously championed sorting out litter and vandalism in their village and internet safety.

“This is a really good news story which will encourage others.”

The girls have raised about £8000 to get the Just Smile project off the ground and £2000 was given by Norwich firm Smith and Pinching, whose senior financial consultant Janina Dingwall said: “Anti bullying is a really strong ethos in our company and these young people are taking it on board and it is really important. I think they are amazing and they have produced something very positive out of something very negative. It is a very simple idea - and the best ideas always are.”

Their website is www.justsmile.org.uk and has a wide range of advice and information.

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