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.

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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!

Back To The Courts…

One of the most exciting things for me this quarter is the start of badminton, which I also committed to last year. After doing yoga last quarter, I’m ready for the more fast paced and competitive atmosphere of the badminton courts. I’m also looking forward to improving my technical knowledge of the sport and playing against my friends (it’s always fun debating who won a particular point!)

My aims for badminton this quarter are…

(a) Successfully performing more challenging badminton shots (such as ‘the smash’)

(b) Improving my footwork so that I can reach the shuttlecock easier for shots

(c) Improving my strategy (for example, hitting clear shots when my opponent is on the front court)

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Photo Credits: Ika Zakaria