45% of Kiwi teachers say verbal and social/relational bullying is brought to their attention once a week*. 15-year-old Bradly Dover has experienced this first-hand – yet he is so much more than a statistic.
Bradly is one of those special humans who asks for so little, yet gives so much. His strength of character and kind nature is a testament to his indomitable spirit, which could have easily been broken by events that shaped his formative years.
He was born with congenital nystagmus and has stationary night blindness, which affects his sight and ability to read printed text. He also spent his early years as a witness to domestic violence, which left him with ongoing mental health trauma.
“He’s very nervous and he’s suspicious of everyone. Because he can’t see clearly, it heightens his anxiety,” explains his mum Joanne.
Bullying is a serious problem with serious repercussions. It changes lives for the worse, and not just during school. It has long-term effects. Around the world, children who are bullied are 300% more likely to show signs of depression, according to the Centre for Adolescent Health.
Bradly’s crime, in the eyes of his tormentors, was being different. His poor vision marked him out as a target, and while he tried to ride the abuse as best he could, eventually Bradly reached his breaking point.
Just before the pandemic struck, the bullying got so bad that Bradly was physically ill at the thought of going to school and was spending three days a week at home. During lockdown, he was able to access distance learning and started to thrive. Once normality returned to New Zealand, Bradly was able to enrol in Te Kura distance learning.
“Learning through Te Kura is the best thing for him,” says Joanne.
It doesn’t end there.
In 2013, Joanne broke her back and can’t work. She has custody of her 20-month-old granddaughter, who is drug-affected. Joanne’s injury means that Bradly gets up at 6am to wake his niece, feed her and take her to the car, so she can get to day care.
Then he gets on with his schoolwork until it’s time to bathe his niece and clean the house. He does this without Joanne asking, all at 15 years old.
When Satan’s Little Helper was alerted to Bradly’s bravery, we knew he deserved a special treat. He doesn’t get out much, so we sent him and his older sister to Rainbow’s End theme park in Auckland, helped them get there, and provided a feed.
“He had an awesome time in Auckland,” says Joanne. “Bradly and his sister are really close, so he wanted her to have a day out.
It speaks volumes that the first thing Bradly wanted to do was give something to someone else.
“They both got a trip away and it was something different, because it’s not something I can afford to go and do. There were no queues and he got to go on the rides straight away – they had a great day!” says Joanne.
Over the next few years, Bradly plans to study to become a dairy farmer – his dream job.
For Bradly, there’s no better way to announce to the world that the bullies will never win.
*According to research carried out by Dr Vanessa Green, Head of Victoria University’s School of Educational Psychology and Pedagogy.