OTTUMWA — Mean names, teasing and hurtful lies can begin to lose their power when we refuse to let them bother us. A creative group from Dubuque wants to make it easier for local residents to leave that pain behind.
"I do not want others to deal with what I did," said Ashley Mechert of Dubuque, a college student and a founder of the Piece of Me campaign. "I want to show the world that hate and bullying are horrible things that have horrible effects on people."
So far, she and her not-for-profit team have concentrated their efforts in Dubuque. Each participant gets to write a "label" on a blindfold. They can put the blindfold over their own eyes, or just hold the blindfold. Photos appear on the organizations web page to share with others.
"It's more powerful than just having people sign a pledge not to bully," she said. "The blindfold labels are words that describe the person in the photo, or maybe it describes why they were bullied or what they were called."
After suffering bullying that left her in tears daily, Mechert said she felt empowered against the bullies who teased her for being a bigger girl.
"I wrote 'Size 10' on mine," she said.
The teasing ceased having complete power over her. She can take the label off and dump it. She has the power to reject or accept any label. And those who put a label on someone else may be blinding themselves to what is right in front of them.
"If you're blinded by labels, you're missing out on good people. [This visual method symbolizes] that just because someone may be something, or look some way, doesn't mean they're a bad person," or even a good person, Mechert agreed, adding that for each individual, you would have to get to know them as a person.