In our society, despite remarkable efforts, the distressing reality of bullying and ridicule for the vulnerable continues to persist, particularly within school settings. It is disheartening to acknowledge that there are children who eagerly seize the opportunity to mock those who are different from them. While many eventually outgrow such behavior, this provides no solace to the victims who endure derogatory names and, at times, even physical abuse.
One individual intimately familiar with this ordeal is Ashley, hailing from England. Ashley grapples with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a condition that affects the structure of facial bones. Reflecting on his experience, he shared, “I was born without ears, without cheekbones, and my jaw receded. I have undergone over 30 surgeries, including three jaw surgeries and ear transplants.”
Ashley’s journey began with a harrowing start. As a baby, he underwent cataract surgery to rectify a life-threatening situation where he had inadvertently swallowed his tongue. Doctors, working swiftly to save him, inserted a life-saving tube. Ashley owes his life to none other than Peter Andre’s mother-in-law, who played a pivotal role in his rescue.
As one might imagine, Ashley’s school years were far from easy. While his memories of home were filled with love and kindness, the same could not be said for his experiences at school. “The bullying started after a week,” he recounted. “They would throw things at me—bottle caps, food, and so on. The situation worsened over the months to the point where they would pin me against walls. It was in those moments that I realized I was a victim of bullying. It was severe.”
The tormentors took control of Ashley’s life, pushing his mental well-being to deteriorate. He would return home in tears daily, deeply affected by his mother’s sadness.
“Fortunately, middle school was not as harsh as elementary school,” Ashley shared. “Though people would still stare, point, and throw things at me, it was relatively better.”
In 2016, Ashley became a volunteer at a local animal charity, a role he cherished. Later, he took on the position of a waiter at a nearby restaurant, relishing the opportunity to meet new people. However, his deep-rooted desire was to enter the health and welfare industry.
In 2017, Ashley reached out to an organization called Fixers, which empowers young individuals to utilize their past experiences to shape a better future. Through Fixers, Ashley became part of a campaign that shed light on his past abuse. The campaign garnered attention, leading to interviews on radio stations and popular TV shows where he courageously shared his story.
“In November of that year, I became an assistant and worked with adults with learning difficulties. I found immense satisfaction in helping them,” Ashley revealed. “In December 2018, I changed jobs and joined an association called MENCAP. My anti-bullying campaign has been incredibly rewarding and successful thus far.”
Now, Ashley’s objective is to support those who face various challenges. He aims to encourage individuals to open up about their struggles and discuss the abuse they have endured, enabling them to seek the help they need.
He expressed, “I want people to share their stories instead of bottling them up. My future goals include continuing to share my own story and raising awareness about this issue. I aspire to write a book and potentially work in the TV industry. Ever since I embarked on this campaign, my life has transformed completely. It has made my life extraordinary.”
Recently, Ashley spoke publicly for the first time at his former school. Although he admitted feeling apprehensive about addressing the children and sharing his story, the response he received was nothing short of astonishing.
“I am thrilled to be making a difference in people’s lives. I want to keep sharing my story wherever possible, raising awareness and spreading the message. After all, we are all different, each possessing unique and amazing qualities. We must treat everyone equally. Life is a marvelous journey, and I eagerly anticipate what the future holds.”