I came upon my CAS Project after being at an utter loss during our service meeting this month.
As one of the leaders of my service this year, I really wanted to go beyond our one hour sessions, where we were lucky to experience the happiness of the kids, but completely missed the struggles of the families. Many of these families come to Colombo from rural Sri Lanka in order to treat their children, but are daunted by the constant emotional and financial stress.
Together, as a service, we came up with the idea of therapy for the parents, but knew it would be a long journey due to the social taboo and judgment associated with therapy. Something we could start on straight away, however, was aquarium therapy. Research suggests that something as simple as a fish tank can be used to improve mental health, presenting the Maharagama Children’s Hospital with a very inconspicuous, community approved therapist.Aquarium therapy can significantly reduce feelings of stress and anxiety while promoting pleasant sentiments. This seemed like a great start to our long term goal of therapy and my CAS Project.
This was a task we’d been planning for around a month, and something I had written about in my previous service post.I wanted to make sure that we managed our funds properly so that there was enough left over for our other long term objectives (such as buying medical equipment).Luckily, our service supervisors came to the rescue, giving me their help and contacts in the aquarium business.
At the aquarium shop, I made sure I got my main priorities across – a sturdy 5 by 4 feet fish tank with a plain blue background, a few simple plants, a good water filter system and fish that would live a long time. These were all features designed to calm the children and their families as they enjoyed the tank, but the aquarium owner suggested gold fish because of their bright color and appeal to children.
The fish tank was set up on a Thursday, and, much like the kids, sat ready and awaiting the fish. We decided to wait a week till our next visit to put in the fish in order to give the filtration system enough time to make the environment hospitable for the fish – dead fish would accomplish the opposite of our goals.
After making the final payments, we took the fish with us in the bus for our next visit. The journey was short, and thankfully the fish were spared the harrowing experience of a Sri Lankan traffic jam.
When we brought the fish into the hospital, curious kids crowded around straight away, reassuring me that this was something that would honestly brighten their day – I think its important to remember that small, direct actions are sometimes as important as the large, long-term ones, especially with a time sensitive disease such as cancer.
CAS Project Completed!
However, my work at the hospital and with the kids are far from over – I make a point to check the fish tank and make sure its well-maintained during each visit. I want my CAS Project to make a real impact, even if it is a small one.