Prevost and Maguire sing to support victims of bullying

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Codie Prevost and Stephen Maguire shared both their talents and their own stories of being bullied during the Imagine No Bullying tour stop in Swift Current last Wednesday.

O.M. Irwin Middle School was the sixth stop as part of the Imagine No Bullying campaign coordinated by the Canadian Red Cross. Prevost and Maguire reached out to over 3,500 students during the seven stop tour which took their message to Hague, Yorkton, Weyburn, Saskatoon, La Ronge, Swift Current, and Regina.

Both Prevost and Maguire admit they have been moved by the numerous stories about bullying they heard from children as young as 10 and 11 years old, and they highlighted that the voices of the students are still standing out in their minds.

"We want the kids to know that we hear them and that we see them," Maguire said. "We just want them to walk away feeling good about themselves and knowing that their voice will be heard. And that they can approach their teachers, they can talk about this."

In addressing the issue of bullying, the duo wrote and recorded the single "Let Love Conquer All" for the Imagine No Bullying Canadian Red Cross Campaign. This inspiring song has helped them reach students through music.

"It has been a great response, having the whole music aspect with it," Prevost admitted. "The coolest thing though is to be able to use music and tell your story through that. And by sharing stories before the songs, and then playing that song that has a similar meaning to it, and then going into more of your story, there's a constant flow of things happening that I feel keeps a crowd engaged really well."

Prevost said talking about bullying is no longer a taboo topic.

"I remember growing up, bullying was a big thing in my town, Rose Valley," he said. "The biggest thing for me, I never had the courage to talk to anybody, and that was the biggest problem. Thank God I had my music for a way to express myself. These days, that's the most important thing is that they talk to someone, that they express what they're feeling, what they're going through. It's somebody to listen to them and to understand them."

Maguire admits that the tour has been an emotional experience.

"We tread carefully because it's a very touchy subject, but one that for so long has been brushed under the carpet with catastrophic results," he said. "We're not councillors. We are only sharing our story and how we dealt with it.".

In addition to being an eye opening experience for the performers, school staff are also surprised to see the extent of bullying among youth. During in-class sessions, students are asked to anonymously put their hands up when asked if they have been bullied, with surprising results.

"It's amazing to watch the reaction of the teachers as well when the majority of their class puts their hand up. It's right in their classroom," Maguire said.

While they don't always have the opportunity to spend long periods at a school, during their visit in Swift Current they had a day long opportunity for in-class discussions after a full school assembly, plus they performed a community concert for a small crowd later that evening.

"We wanted to really hang around and be able to do classroom visits and then do a show in the evening," Provost said as opposed of their usual restraints of having to be in and out of a community. "It's kind of a message and a presentation that's really crucial for parents as well. It just maybe starts another conversation at the supper table and opens up the topic a wee bit."

Both stress that opening a dialogue on bullying is the key to combating the problem.

"What would have happened if that kid had a voice? What would have happened if all of a sudden it's cool not to bully?" Maguire highlighted. "As musicians we kind of wanted to add that element to it. Look, we're travelling all over the world, we're doing all of these things, we didn't hurt anybody to get here. So hopefully the ripple effect it'll open up conversations around the supper table, which I think is crucial."

Additional support from the Canadian Red Cross also ensured that the Imagine No Bullying tour was successful.

"The response has been incredible too," Prevost said. "We've had people come up to us and share their stories with us as we're at their schools, and that's where it's amazing to have the Red Cross involved."

The duo were accompanied by Jeanny Buan from the Canadian Red Cross, who not only shared her personal story of being bullied while growing up in the Phillippines, but was a resource individual for students currently facing problems with bullies.

She admits she grew up thinking that bullying was normal, but when arrived in Canada found out that it is not normal. She recalls after a presentation in Yorkton, she was given a tight hug from a girl who said she wanted to grow up and be just like her.

"It's so amazing. Even one child - if we could change her life and save her life, it's so fulfilling," Buan said of her touring experience.

She stressed that anyone who is the victim of bullying is not helpless, and there are many things they can do to address the situation.

"They have a huge support system behind them," she said. "We are bringing that awareness and we would like them to know that they can do something about it, and that they're not alone. There's an army behind them to help them get through it."

"If something can help that, and if this can play a part in helping that, that's exactly what we're hoping it can do," she said of the tour.

The Imagine No Bullying song “Let Love Conquer All” can be downloaded for free at http://vibedeck.com/imaginenobullying-canadianredcross-campaign/let-love-conquer-all

Organizations: Red Cross, Imagine No Bullying Canadian Red Cross Campaign

Geographic location: Swift Current, Rose Valley

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