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

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.