Olympic medal winner Michael Conlan and his family are kicking off the 16th Anti-Bullying Week by wearing mismatched socks to celebrate individuality.
The event, which is the first day of Anti-Bullying Week which runs from November 15-19, aims to promote individuality and celebrate differences.
The professional boxer is a keen supporter for the Northern Ireland event this year and is calling on children and young people to salute individuality rather than frown upon it.
Conlan is hoping by supporting the event young people will help in the drive to eradicate bullying.
Conlan said: “Growing up, like many children, I was picked on. Often my small stature was the focal point and at times I felt isolated, different and unhappy.
“With support and help I learned to use my differences — the things that attracted that unwelcome attention — to my advantage and become what I am today – a world champion boxer.
“This year I’m supporting Anti-Bullying Week 2021 because no-one should be treated differently or harassed because they don’t fit in with other’s ideals.
“Odd Socks Day is a great initiative that encourages the celebration of differences through the simple act of wearing socks that don’t match. It’s a good starting point for every person in a position of influence to initiate the conversation around bullying and lead by example.”
Supported by CBeebies presenter Andy Day and his band ‘Andy and the Odd Socks’, Odd Socks Day is calling on all of Northern Ireland’s school children and young people to help stamp out bullying here.
There is no pressure to wear the latest fashion or to buy expensive costumes. All you have to do to take part is wear odd socks to your school or at home and join celebrities like Emma Willis and Ant and Dec, and more locally, Michael Conlan, who have played their part in recent years.
CBBC and CBeebies stars Andy and the Odd Socks have launched a new song and video especially for Anti-Bullying Week 2021 using this year’s theme ‘One Kind Word’ as the title.
The video features students from last year’s winning schools. Local winners taking part include Donaghadee Primary School; Killowen Primary School, Lisburn; and St John’s Primary School, Derry.
Children’s TV star Andy Day said: “Pulling on a couple of odd socks might not seem like much, but it’s an opportunity to encourage people to express themselves and celebrate their individuality in their own unique way!
“This year we want to spread the message that one kind word can lead to another and together we can help stop bullying. So we hope to see you wearing your most colourful odd socks this Anti-Bullying Week on Monday 15th November.”
This year’s event marks Northern Ireland’s 16th Anti-Bullying Week and the busiest schedule yet including a brand new award for influential local school teachers and staff who have helped in the drive to end bullying as well as a host of events including the annual Creative Arts competition.
Urging schools across Northern Ireland to take part Aoife Nic Colaim, Anti-Bullying Co-ordinator, Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) said: “Odd Socks Day is a brilliant way to highlight bullying in your school. It helps us express individuality and sends a message to children that being different should be celebrated.
“There is nothing to be lost from taking part in this fun event, but everything to be gained and we urge all schools to participate with their children in what is an easy way to be part of a very valuable campaign.
“We are delighted to be launching our 16th Anti-Bullying Week in Northern Ireland and look forward to spreading kindness, not just throughout the week-long event but in the wake of it and for years to come.”
Anti-Bullying Week is coordinated by the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) and supported by Translink. NIABF is an interagency group hosted by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and funded by the Department of Education.
Collectively the latter organisations have been creating awareness of bullying in a bid to encourage children to live harmoniously with others, celebrating individuality and stamping out bullying.
Charlene Brooks, chair, Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum added: “Our manifesto for this year is about the simple act of kindness, from small positive statements made from one child to another to acting kindly so that we can ignite a chain reaction that overpowers negativity and instils positivity.
“With our manifesto in mind, we’re asking children to ask if someone’s OK. Say you’re sorry. Just say hey.
“In a world that can sometimes feel like it’s filled with negativity, one kind word can provide a moment of hope. It can be a turning point. It can change someone’s perspective. It can change their day. It can change the course of a conversation and break the cycle of bullying.
“Best of all, one kind word leads to another. Kindness fuels kindness. So, from the playground to Parliament, and from our phones to our homes, together, our actions can fire a chain reaction that powers positivity.
“It starts with one kind word. It starts today.”
Translink is a long standing supporter of Anti-Bullying Week and will once again partner with the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum to help deliver key messages around the theme of kindness.