HFK: Rations Drive

The Sri Lankan New Year, which falls on the 14th of April, is all about getting together with your family, receiving presents, and eating good food. In the spirit of this holiday, Hope For Kids held its annual rations drive at school, so that we could celebrate the new year at the hospital with deserving families. This was a great way to end my time as a leader of the service, as it let me really see the impact of my work over the past two years.

In order to get the rations drive under way, we started planning for it at the beginning of March, assigning a particular good to each grade. We decided on these items depending on necessity and the average diet of a Sri Lankan family. In order to motivate our classmates, we promised a pizza party to the grade that brought in the most rations, although we also stressed the importance and joy of helping others in our community.

After collecting these rations for a month, it was time to go from classroom to classroom, gathering and counting the food that was brought in. There was some heavy lifting involved, with some members of the service carrying 25 Kg of rice down two flights of stairs, but this just meant that our school had come through – we had enough and more rations to give out.

Our last service day before our half term break, we loaded all the rations into an extra van, along with a shopping cart that some people speculated was borrowed rom a local grocery store. At the hospital, we each took turns knocking on the rooms doors, and giving each family a bag of rations, and wishing them a happy Sri Lankan New Year. The best part for me was having rations left over, and being able to give these to the guards and cleaning staff we see around the hospital each time we visit.

This was a great way to directly experience the impact we make in our community and realize we are doing something worthwhile, so it was a great note to end service on for me.

Service: Creative Fundraising

For the second semester of Hope For Kids, we had some creative ideas for fund raising that really met our target of challenging ourselves while helping our community. With our school talent show, Gecko Factor, soon approaching, we set to work making tie-dye bandanas to sell to the willing members of the audience.

Having tried tie-dye last year, we knew that using acrylic paint and hanging them up to dry sometimes resulted in faded colors, and the dye dripping down the cloth. This time, we came prepared, and used batik paint instead. Figuring out new ways to fold the cloth to get designs was my favorite part, and the reveal, in my opinion, deserved a drum roll. Of course, all of us soon forgot about the gloves we were supposed to wear and walked out with our hand stained purple and orange, but we also had 20 bandanas ready to be sold in a few weeks!

Despite a large part of the funds we use coming from our saving from the previous years, I also think it’s really important to challenge ourselves to raise money in innovative ways that add to our school community while also raising awareness to our cause. Hopefully, we are well on our way to achieving this!

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The Final Product

How You Should Celebrate Christmas

Although our inexperience may show, we were a very enthusiastic group of Christmas carolers last Thursday, during our visit to the children’s ward.

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img_6625When our bus left OSC, on the way to the Maharagama hospital, it was filled with christmas spirit, complete with a tree, santa costume, green and red balloons, and a plethora of shiny presents. While our Christmas caroling at the ward was rather spontaneous, all the other details were planned meticulously in advance, right down to the color coded gifts according to age. We wanted to make this celebration as meaningful as possible, and that meant maximizing our time and resources.In fact, this year, Santa visited the children, as well as the parents at the ward – after all, they deserve to feel appreciated as well. A Christmas celebration with the children is something our service does every year, but that doesn’t mean we don’t put new thought and effort into the plans.

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Next to cake and chasing their balloons around the room, decorating the Christmas tree was the most popular activity of the evening. The tree was constantly surrounded by small feet, and tugged at my multiple hands – it was exactly what Christmas should be like.

CAS Project: Aquarium Therapy

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fullsizerenderI 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.

The Plan

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Prospective Fish

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The Fish Have Arrived

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.

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Tank Shopping

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 Execution

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An Intense Conversation About Fish

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.

HFK:Mission Accomplished!

Our goals for Hope For Kids are officially underway!

After talking to the staff at the hospital, we learnt that all water for the children have to be purified using a specific gadget – it was easily accessible, and relatively cheap, however it posed an inconvenience as it had to be replaced each month. As a start to our main goal of allocating funds to meet the technical needs of the hospital and the kids, last visit, we provided them with a 6 month supply of water purifiers. It was an easily managed task and allowed us to move on and focus on some of our more long term goals.

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Delivering the Water Purifiers

Objectives/ Projects Underway

  • The Fish Tank Project – Both our service and the hospital staff agree that a fish tank would give the children beautiful scenery to look at, and focus on. Additionally, ‘aquarium therapy’, as it is labelled, is helpful in reducing stress and anxiety levels, which we hope will also aid the parents of these lovely patients. Therefore, for my CAS Project, I am planning on buying and setting up a fish tank at the hospital, along with my service. At present, I have already allocated funds for it, and we are in the process of looking at potential tanks at local stores.
  • Thinking About The Parents – During our monthly meeting, we talked about how we, as a service, wanted to be supportive to the whole hospital community, in a way that went beyond donations and helping with medication. As one of our supervisors, Miss Lenk, suggested, most charity organizations do not think about the parents, and how they must be coping with the suffering of their children. many of these families have to uproot their lives in rural areas of Sri Lanka, in order to come to Colombo and get treatment. In an effort to recognize and help with this, we made plans to talk with another service, Girls for Girls, in order to contact therapists, that may be able to talk to the parents and soothe their worries. as a start, we were contemplating group sessions, as that would be less intimidating.
  • Looking At The Big Picture – One of our supervisors, Miss Tanuja, suggested that we visit the terminal ward at the hospital, with some of the older parents. Although our main focus is the kids, we thought it would be good idea to visit this ward once a month or so, as these parents were older and eager to talk. In fact, when our group talked to one patient, Mr. Sammy, he opened up to us about his girlfriend. In fact, he read out a poem he wrote to her, and relayed to us her responding poem! All in all, it was an interesting first visit, and we made plans to come back on a weekend, and arrange their entertainment and food for the evening.

Here’s to the next successful plan!

Hope For Kids – DP2

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Photo Credits: Miss Tanuja

Meeting and Objectives…

Before even entering our first meeting, I was already eager for this service year, as I am now one of the service leaders for Hope For Kids. I will be in charge of the accounting aspect, while my other two fellow leaders will be in charge of PR and organization. While at first glance, numbers and calculation may seem to be the least thrilling part of service and giving back to others, I don’t think that’s the case for my service. Through years of hard work, HFK has a considerable amount of funding to its name, a fact that got all the members very excited as we came up with idea after idea for helping the hospital with our funding. Consequently, our meeting was filled with many suggestions and improvements from last year, leading to our current ambitious objectives for the coming year:

(a) Allocate funding accordingly for short term expenses such as arts and crafts material, as well as long term expenses such as buying medical equipment. In addition to broadening perspectives and bringing a childhood back to these patients, this year, we also want to help with more technical aspects such as necessities for families and expensive medical equipment.

(b) Strengthen our awareness campaign for the service and the issues it combats in Sri Lankan society. we decided a good first step would be to open up a Facebook page. Interacting and giving back to the kids is a reward of its own, but it is equally important create awareness and make sure we aid them as a unified community, and not just a school service group.

(c) Brainstorm new creative activities that would be meaningful as well as beneficial for the kids we visit. A new idea that we carried out in one of our initial visits to the hospital this year is making paper dolls. Due to their weak immune systems, these kids aren’t allowed to have stuffed toys due to its cotton filling. Therefore, by showing them how to make paper dolls, we are hopefully showing them a way to keep hold of their childhood and see the good in a bad situation.

Hospital Visits

img_6347As mention in our this objective, one of the first hospital activities we conducted was making paper dolls. what really struck me during this visit was how fun it was to interact with the kids and how much they had to give back to their community. One of the girls I was helping make paper dolls really didn’t need my help at all! Despite being shy at first, she quickly took control of choosing the colors and designing the doll’s outfit. Despite having a really great time talking to her, she was very enthusiastic about making her doll on her own – which in the end was a good thing as she seemed to have a great artistic vision that I did not possess. It really showed me how much all of them had to offer, and how it should be a privilege to us to get to see them every week.

End of Year CAS Reflection

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As the end of this academic year nears, looking back at my initial CAS goals, and the eight learning outcomes for CAS, makes me realize how much I have grown and accomplished this year, as well as the ways in which my aspirations changed and veered in new directions.
FullSizeRender-2Looking back on my goals for creativity, it’s encouraging to see that I have achieved my goals, and exceeded my initial expectations. Having reflected on the blog regarding my progress as a piano player, I am satisfied with my success at live performances, and my improvement in pianistic techniques. However, while I am glad that I undertook the challenge of becoming a better pianist and playing for live audiences, it has also led me to identify areas for growth in my learning.Now that I have experience playing live, and have a better understanding of how to cope with mistakes during the heat of the moment, I aim to take a more central and frequent role in these performances next year, as a DP2 musician.

While maintaining my commitment to playing the piano, I am also really grateful 1that I got the opportunity to expand my knowledge of music, by developing new skills as a violinist. As this was a CAS goal made at the beginning of the year, however, I am a little disappointed at how long it took me to organize a teacher and start my lessons, as it left me no time for reflection on the blog. For next year, I plan to take more initiative when pursuing any CAS activity, so that I have time to blog in detail about it, over the course of the semesters.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 8.25.23 PMA large part of my creativity hours, however, came about due to activities and events that I did not plan to be a part of, but felt a personal desire to try. MUN and Bugsy Malone (backstage crew) are two main events that became a spontaneous addition to my CAS blog. With MUN, I demonstrated my perseverance and commitment to an activity that had overwhelmed me the year before. Deciding to participate a second time allowed me to experience the activity in a new light, made more enjoyable by my prior knowledge and new friends. Volunteering for the backstage crew in our school musical, however, was an entirely new challenge for me, one that turned out to be very rewarding. Aside from teaching me new skills, this event showed me what it is like to be part of OSC, and revel in the school spirit.

Looking back on my goals for action, it is apparent that this is the are where myScreen Shot 2016-02-17 at 8.19.56 PM plans for the year changed significantly, taking me in new athletic directions that I had never thought of before. At the beginning of the year, I was eager to try a different form of action – dance. While I was very enthusiastic to learn, however, I did not find a class to my liking. Determined to develop new skills athletically, however, I joined yoga with my friends during the second semester. Rather different from dance, yoga taught me the importance of having a cal mindset and exercising your muscles to remain healthy. It was a very different area of action compared to badminton, the sport that I have been committed to for the past few years. Badminton allowed me to improve my strengths in technical aspects, such as succeeding in a smash shot, and enabled me to compete with friends in an activity I really enjoyed. Despite my athletic achievements, however, I wish I had been able to play sports more competitively, like in SAISA, something I am planning on working towards for next year.

HFKLooking back on my goals for service, I am glad to report that I have committed to “Hope for Kids” the entire year, a feat made very easy by the wonderful kids and dedicated group members. In the presence of my peers, who are so familiar with this cause, and determined to improve it, as well as my supervisors, who care about us as much as the kids at the hospital, it is impossible to see my service as a mere CAS requirement. Hope for Kids has definitely made me want to contribute to other service projects during my own time, which I think would be a good way to develop as a person, outside of CAS requirements.

For next year, I I plan to use all my ideas from the end of this year, as well as any new ideas I may have over the summer, to figure out new CAS goals.