The mission of Reading nonprofit The Camel Project is simple, yet profound: rather than exist as yet another anti-bullying program, The Camel Projects works to eliminate bullying at the source.
Bullying is a topic that is intimately familiar to founder Pam Gockley. In addition to being raised in a dysfunctional family situation with two alcoholic parents, Gockley was bullied by everyone from peers to the vice principal of her school. “I became the bully [myself] when I got [too] tired of it all,” she shared. “In ninth grade, I committed a felony and [eventually] dropped out of school.”
Gockley’s story did not end in tragedy, however. Rather, it helped her become exactly the mentor for today’s children that she wished that she had been able to learn from when she herself was young.
Now the author of five books, the holder of two degrees, and boasting an accomplished career in media technology that has spanned over two decades, Gockley has honed her talents to focus on the youth of today. “Bullies are in as much pain as their victims,” she said. “Even the worst bullies just want the pain to stop.”
The Camel Project focuses on eradicating bullying by implementing a three-pronged approach to assist in addressing, targeting, and witnessing bullying. Gockley shared that any individual who was involved in a bullying situation–whether as the target, a witness of the incident, or the bully themself–is dealing with trauma.
“If you have self-awareness, confidence, and healthy support systems around you, you are less likely to be a bully, you are less likely to be targeted by one, and you will have the adaptive skills to help others being bullied,” she said. “Bullies do not want to fight, they want to win. They learned to target the perceived weakest in the room.”
One of the programs that The Camel Project has developed is called B.E.L.L.Y (Building Emotional Long-term Love for Yourself), a program with the goal of training adults in the community to train youth programs.
“We want to educate the people who are in charge within a school, organization, or workplace,” said Gockley. The programs offered by The Camel Project include a twelve month agreement with organizations, and frequent check-ins. “I feel that this is how most [other] programs fail; there’s no checking in following a program,” said Gockley.
Gockley emphasized that The Camel Project believes that all kids “are their own superheroes”, and that each individual situation requires a tactful “army boots or ballet slippers” approach to solving conflict. “Take the painful things,” she said, “and replace them with things that make you happy.”
For more information on The Camel Project, visit their website here: thecamelproject.org