When it comes to addressing bullying at younger ages, the main focus is usually on the aftermath and its victims. For fifth-year Kinesiology student Hamza Ahmad, what is also just as important is tackling the problem at its very core — the bullies themselves — with his organization, How to Be a Bully.
Since the organization’s formation, How to Be a Bully has offered a variety of services to combat the proliferation of such behaviour. At first, the original concept started as a board game where people would share stories of either bullying or being bullied.
According to Ahmad, this slowly grew into a program that now includes workshops for kids to pursue their own hobbies and the production of short films and raps songs that tackle the realistic repercussions of being a bully. Ahmad himself has provided anti-bullying talks regarding his experiences in various high school auditoriums as well as bigger settings like WE Day 2015 at the Rogers Arena.
Being the founder of the organization, Ahmad is no stranger to bullying. In fact, Ahmad himself frequently bullied other kids throughout most of his younger school life in his home country of South Africa.
“I remember instances where we were locking kids in lockers. [This] one guy had claustrophobia and started banging on the lockers,” said Ahmad, claiming that the behaviour usually stemmed from a competitive “alpha male” environment in school. “We’d just laugh it off because that was a fun thing to do. It provided the foundation where people would cheer you on and you become popular.”
Ahmad’s bullying problem eventually became too much, even for him. One boy he had bullied professed a desire kill him due to his actions and his behavior started disrupting classes which irritated instructors. Eventually, he found out that his own younger brother was a bullying victim himself who contemplated suicide.
“That was very heavy. That’s your own blood, your own family telling you that they want take their own life. That’d make any person feel upset and that forced me to look within myself,” he said. This prompted Ahmad to change his ways, seek reparations from many of the people he had affected and eventually conceive the entire project.
Still, Ahmad has not forgotten the program’s priority is changing the bully itself. In light of this, he feels that role models and social environments need to play their role outside of the organization in order to better combat any related mentality.
“Myself as a bully, I had a lot of power. I was abusing my power. It would’ve been so nice to have a role model that understood the way I used to think and act and my culture,” said Ahmad, who frequently interacts with the students he visits. “I want to show them first hand through my story, but not try to [preach or teach] them. Just be real to them like, ‘Hey, this is my story and I want to let you decide if this is the road you wanna go down or not.’”
In cases where the damage is already done, then it is way more important to mend old wounds as soon as possible. According to Ahmad, it’s not just for the sake of the victims, but ultimately for the perpetrator as well.
“Instead of shaming yourself, see yourself as worthy of improvement,” Ahmad said, noting this was advice given to him from an old associate. “You’ve reached out to all these people and asked for their forgiveness, but that’s not the whole thing. You’ve got to be able to forgive those that have done you wrong … and once you’ve taken that poison out of you, you’ve got to be able to forgive yourself.”