YOUR VOICE

IF YOU DON'T REPRESENT YOUR STORY SOMEONE ELSE WILL

Your voice matters. This is a safe place to share your story. Whether you are the target of school or workplace bullying, isolated from your faith community or discriminated against by society, WISER wants to understand your perspective. Each story will be different. You might be the victim. You might be the aggressor. You might have been both at different settings or stages of your life. Either way, chances are you have a story to tell. Share your story through an original poem, song, drawing or blog. This is the place to do it.
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KIDS

Children as young as three years old know how to exclude someone else from play. At this age, if children exclude others it is often to test limits and explore how much power they have in the group. It is similar to the infamous "terrible two's" when children begin experimenting with their independence and asserting themselves with the magical word "no". It is important to understand the child's behavior from a developmental perspective and set limits. No matter the motivation or developmental perspective, it is hard to stomach when someone is excluding your child. Has this issue come up in your family? How did you handle it? How did the daycare or school handle it?
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YOUTH

People of all ages need to feel like they belong. Our need to belong is right up there with basic human needs like food, water, and safety. Young people can meet this need by having strong ties to their family, faith community, sports team, dance troop, volunteer organization or other positive group. If that is not available, youth may try to meet that need by giving in to peer pressure with the hope of strengthening their position with the "in group". Young people who do not fit into any social group are often targets of bullying, which gets worse in middle school. One in four youth gets bullied. One in three watches it happen. Have you or your children been bullied? Was the bullying tied to ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, or language?
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FAMILIES

Families are the heart of any society. The family introduces children to the world, including social relationships and social expectations. Ideally the family unit will increase a person's sense of belonging, but in some cases the family unit may be the source of rejection. This typically happens when a family member does not fit in with the family's value system. For example, someone who converts to a different faith may be shunned by the rest of the family. Teenagers who express their sexuality may be forced to leave home. Others may feel excluded or unwanted because of a health problem or learning disability. Our families send powerful messages about when to include people and when to exclude them. What has your family taught you? What messages do you send about excluding others?
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WORKPLACES

Our society uses different words to talk about excluding behavior depending on the environment. In schools we call it bullying. In workplaces we call it office politics. When a group of colleagues give a co-worker the silent treatment, ignore the co-worker's input in meetings, withhold information from the co-worker, or coordinate efforts to covertly undermine the co-worker -- that is social exclusion in the workplace. Research shows that being excluded can be more harmful to an employee's health and job performance than other types of conflict. Many people who are ostracized at work end up leaving their employment which could affect their economic status. Have you survived exclusion or witnessed it in the workplace? Have you and your friends excluded someone at work? Do you think ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability or language had anything to do with it?
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COMMUNITIES

Community is something you know when you feel it, but is difficult to define. At its root, community is a group of people who feel safe together, can trust each other, have a sense of belonging and can influence each other. You might be a part of several communities -- your neighborhood, faith group, professional association or political group to name a few. Studies show that being a part of a community is good for our health, leads to longer life and improves our economic standing. Communities can be closed and rigid or open and welcoming. Closed communities can be dangerous. A hate group is an example of a closed community that may benefit its members, but hurts society at large. WISER's mission is to empower others to build inclusive communities and equitable access in health, education and economic markets. What kind of experiences have you had with your communities? Have you been involved in building inclusive communities?