The KOKO and Friends Project - A Mother's Story
I heard stories about children committing suicide due to peer-on-peer bullying and thought, “That’s horrible! Somebody ought to do something.” But when I walked in on my daughter about to swallow a handful of pills because the pain of dealing with bullying at school became too much for her to bear, my entire world turned upside down! I had a problem money could not fix, connections could not make go away, and no one else’s world stopped turning but mine.
After crying with and for my little girl, I realized I had to find a solution to save my daughter! I searched for kid-friendly books and resources on bullying--to no avail. Bullying is real and it happensf every day in every school setting across this nation. Surely, I was not the only parent facing this problem. There was nothing to show me how to help my child! Suddenly, "I" became that "somebody" who had to do something because now ... IT'S MY CHILD!
When I brought the bullying to her teacher and principal's attention, I was told, "It's just kids being kids. She needs to develop a thicker skin!" They did absolutely nothing to remedy the situation. She was labeled a "snitch" by her classmates, which only made her a target for more bullying. The few friends she did have abandoned her because they didn't want to be ostracized for associating with her. The added weight of loneliness only added to her feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. She was broken! In her eight-year-old mind, not waking up was the only solution!
Addressing my daughter’s suicide attempts forced me to detach myself emotionally and investigate the problem from a systems engineering perspective. Her school became the "black box" and my child became the "input" and "output". The “system” variables that directly (and adversely) impacted my daughter were the other students, teachers, and administrators in her school. I input a happy, well-adjusted child. The “system” output a suicidal child who lost all interest in academics because of the name-calling, manipulated and social isolation she suffered at the hands of her classmates and an indifferent teacher.
I discovered that every child plays a role in their peer group setting. Moreover, children who engage in bullying and antisocial behaviors cause long-term trauma to themselves, victims, and bystanders. Bullying and other antisocial behaviors can be prevented and corrected when children are taught empathy and compassion, and are encouraged to cultivate an environment and culture where all children are respected and accepted.
It became glaringly obvious that many children were never taught the Golden Rule—"Treat others the way you want them to treat you!" No one explained to them the power of their words and actions on a child who is already hurting could be the proverbial straw "that broke the camel’s back.” They simply lacked the early guidance in developing character traits necessary to build a sound moral compass!
The Koko and Friends Project became my love mission for my daughter and her peers...to fill this void! Our storylines and progams are designed to teach conflict resolution skills, peer meditation, respect and acceptance of others, and fosters crime-free lifestyles. Our goal is to equip children with the knowledge and skills to navigate the tough road from adolescence to adulthood.
"Our objective is to shine a light on the truth and create the means to explore it, expose it, and liberate all children to become more powerful in their choices."
Meet Clara Denise West, Ph.D.
Meet Charla Jaye