“If people throw stones at you, pick them up and build something.” The anti-bullying quote rings true for a U.K. student named Nadia Sparkes, who has been putting up with other people’s trash since she started high school last fall.
Riding her bicycle two miles to and from Hellesdon High School in Norwich, 12-year-old Nadia stopped to pick up a piece of trash.
She threw the garbage into a basket on her bicycle, adding to the growing pile of bottles, cans, and junk she’d found on her daily route to school.
But Nadia’s recycling habit soon attracted unwanted attention from bullies at school. “Trash girl!” they teased.
“Go ahead, pick it all up!” I can hear them saying. “It’s your job.”
In addition to the stinging insults, bullies would literally hurl garbage and other objects Nadia’s way, leaving the girl uncertain of how to respond.
She listened to the wise counsel of her mother, Paula Sparkes, who told her daughter she had a choice to make.
“I told her she had two choices,” her mom explained. “She could either stop collecting rubbish, stop drawing their attention and hopefully they would leave her alone, or, she could own [the name] ‘trash girl.'”
Brave Nadia chose the latter, and has been rallying support and praise from people around the globe ever since.
She is wearing the name “Trash Girl” as a badge of honor, inspiring others to take responsibility for keeping their own neighborhoods clean.
“I’m not going to stop doing the right thing because of them, and if they are going to call me trash girl, they can say it with respect,” Nadia expressed. “I’m doing something to protect the world they also live in.”
Nadia and her mother started a “Team Trash Girl” Facebook page as a way to connect with other like-minded folks.
“I also wanted to find a way to help everyone support one another — to help fix the planet’s problems before it becomes unfixable,” Nadia wrote on the page.
As Nadia rose above the haters at school, she noticed people began treating her differently. Peers who used to ignore her have started including her, and the bullies are behaving “a lot nicer to me,” Nadia said.
While Nadia is proud to own her trash collecting job, she’s advocating for others to take up the cause as well.
“We are all responsible for keeping this world safe,” she says, “instead of believing that it’s always someone else’s job.”
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