voestalpine-employee, Sandy Gemmill, touches people around the world with the interactive story-song "The Story of Nelson the Giant". With great sensitivity and optimism, she imparts the importance of empathy to children, a topic that has gained increased importance and reach over the past year.
Tact has always played a very special role in her life – in two ways. Sandy Gemmill is not only an advocate of fairness and compassion, she is also a passionate musician. The mother of two sons has been working for voestalpine Rotec North America Corp in Ontario, Canada as an Executive Assistant for the past five years. In her spare time, she uses her musical talent to help with anti-bullying work.
From the very beginning of her career, at a world-renowned electronic musical instrument manufacturer, Sandy Gemmill was inspired to further explore her passion for music, playing the piano and writing songs. Daily contact with highly-skilled musicians turned her into a soulful songwriter, who hits right to the heart with her music. Thanks to these experiences, she now uses the story-song “Nelson the Giant” to teach children the importance of empathy, regardless of their culture or background.
Discovering the gentle giant
Humanity, compassion, and appreciation: These fundamental values can have a lasting impact on the lives of children and young people. A bullying tragedy in Canada about 20 years ago that resulted in a teen suicide made Sandy Gemmill realize the possible tragic consequences of social exclusion. She wrote her first children’s song about the importance of interpersonal relationships and became involved in anti-bullying work from then on. A few years ago, when this topic came back into the public focus, Sandy Gemmill started developing a musical program for early intervention.
The result of her development work is “Nelson the Giant”, a story-song and activity book that teaches children (four to ten years old) the importance of empathy, acceptance, inclusion, and kindness. The program’s main character is “Nelson the Giant,” an illustrated giant who is only visible from his feet to just above the waist. The rest of Nelson is completed by children based on their own imagination and becomes as relatable as possible for children of all cultures.
Children go on a journey with “Nelson the Giant” and are encouraged to step into his huge footsteps of kindness. Interactive tasks, music, art, and creativity, strengthen the little ones’ self-confidence and foster their understanding of diversity. They playfully learn to put themselves in other people’s shoes, to carefully deal with interpersonal relationships, and thus to awaken the gentle giant within themselves.
Back to life
Bullying often comes with the feeling of being alone in social isolation, a feeling that has found its way into many families during the current pandemic and the associated lockdowns. This exceptional situation, along with reduced human contact in school and home environments, demands a great deal of both children and their parents. “When the pandemic hit, I did see the intensified need to support families as they navigate through this challenging time. “Nelson the Giant” has now become a virtual resource that prepares children for their transition back to the classroom”, describes Sandy Gemmill.
But exceptional situations are not only challenging, they also activate people’s unexpected strengths, open up unexpected possibilities, and demonstrate the scope of interpersonal relationships; developments that are also reflected in the journey of “Nelson the Giant”. Besides the successful use of the program in schools, its encouraging videos are now also present on television and YouTube, in collaboration with Kate Pipe, a local Child & Youth Counsellor.
From Canada to the world
Despite its community success, the journey of “Nelson the Giant” is far from over. Sandy Gemmill is currently working with a Scottish filmmaker to film the story of the warm-hearted giant. An optimistic educational short film to support the two of them on their mission for more compassion worldwide. The simple yet profound message is more relevant than ever, as Sandy Gemmill explains, “I’m very excited about the future development of Nelson the Giant. I’ve been advocating for more empathy for over 20 years, and I’m convinced that, right now, every one of us can make a positive difference in the lives of others with our behavior, whether it’s in the schoolyard, at work, or at home.”