Twelve-year-old Annika Ocampo always felt the pain of her friends who were bullied in school. She said she would turn to music to calm her down.
Her experience with bullying and the way she uses music during troubled times have inspired her to create the comic superhero Althea.
Annika’s character illustration of Althea, created through online digital software FireAlpaca, is a relatable, young female student who uses music to stop violence in schools.
“Althea uses her musical powers to inspire kids like me to stand up for ourselves, to beat The Silence and end violence in our schools. The blue light from her music wraps her listeners and brings out their own strength and courage to stop the violence on their own,” she shared.
She continued, “Althea plays the ukulele and sings gentle, calming songs. Music is a big part of the Filipino culture and Althea depends on music to calm her down.”
Annika’s superhero was chosen as one of the top eight finalists, out of the 3,600 entries from all over the world, in the recently concluded UNICEF School Superhero Comic contest.
Launched in October 2018 by UNICEF, the competition aims to raise awareness to #endviolence in and around schools.
“I was excited but I also thought that other contestants’ artwork were better than mine,” shared Annika. Annika’s is the only entry from the Philippines that made it to the final round of selection.
To create Althea, Annika took inspiration from an American alternative band whose popular songs conveyed the importance of one’s self-worth, and for which multitudes of its online fans have expressed gratitude.
“Since I was in Grade 3, my older sister and I would listen to Twenty One Pilots. They’re popular and mainstream, and their lead singer plays the ukulele and sings about mental health. I listen to it a lot and I was glad that they released a new album at the time I was thinking of joining the superhero comic contest. It was great timing and it gave me a big inspiration,” she shared.
Annika, a seventh grader from Laguna, took interest in drawing at a very young age. She has drawn multiple characters and written short stories whipped from her creative imagination.
Her parents and siblings have always supported her to keep developing her talents. It was in fact, her oldest sister Julia, 22, who encouraged her to join the UNICEF superhero comic contest and who guided her in keeping her ideas focused.
“I’m doing art for a cause not just to feel good or just to have something to do, but also to help others,” said the young artist.
And her superhero Althea can help bring the message to schoolchildren and young adults that being silent about violence in schools, particularly bullying, should finally be broken.
“No problem can be solved without taking action. Bullying and violence is a big problem. The only way to solve it is to speak out. You don’t have much power but you can speak out to save somebody or yourself,” said Annika.
UNICEF Philippines is working with Annika and her parents to produce an expanded story of school superhero Althea to further raise awareness and end violence in schools in the Philippines.
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