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.

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.

DP 2 Objectives

With school beginning one last time for me, I am excited to form new CAS goals and maintain my commitment to those from last year.

I aim to…

  • Explore and improve upon my creativity skills and talents by:

(a) Maintaining my commitment to playing the piano, by continuing my lessons, and sitting for the ABRSM Grade 4 Piano Practical exam. Additionally, I will look at identifying my strengths and areas for growth, in order to improve as a pianist.

(b) Developing new musical skills by playing the glockenspiel as part of the concert band for the upcoming gala concert.

(c) Undertaking new challenges by taking violin lessons and learning to play an instrument that is very different from the piano.

(d) Exploring new areas of creativity, such as photoshop and digital editing, in Yearbook.

(e) Reflecting on my creative efforts by analyzing my skills and progress and determining how to get better.

  • Show significant development in my activities by:

(a) Showing commitment and perseverance by participating in badminton and yoga again.

(b) Working collaboratively with fellow athletes in badminton, in order to maintain my strengths in the sport and develop in areas for growth.

  • Prove my dedication to service in the community and determine how to increase the quality of my efforts by:

(a) Maintaining my commitment to the service ‘Hope for Kids’.

(b) Working collaboratively with the members of my service to spread awareness of global issues, such as cancer, and the ways in which it is affecting our own community in Sri Lanka.

(c) Apply my leadership skills as a leader of my service in order to plan and initiate activities that will benefit the patients at the cancer hospital, and aid in bringing funds to help the hospital with their worthy cause.

  • Fulfill my CAS requirements by:

(a) Planning and carrying out a CAS project

Looking back at my goals in DP1, I have aimed to make my goals more specific and achievable, in order to have a more successful CAS experience during my last year of high school.

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.

HFK: Final visit

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Thursday, the 10th of May, marked our final visit to the hospital this academic year. Due to commitments such as exams, and figuring out service plans for next year, we had our final fun hour with the children this Thursday. Adhering to our goal of providing the children with the childhood and cultural opportunities that they miss due to their battle with cancer, we made the visit centered on the Sri Lankan (Buddhist) festival of Vesak.

Falling on the full moon occurring during May, Vesak is a greatly celebrated holiday in Sri Lanka, which marks the birth of the Buddha in Buddhism. As a child, my favorite part of this holiday was going out at night to see the lanterns adorning the doorsteps of houses and shops alike, making for a spectacular sight in their shiny, brightly colored glory. As a build up to all of this excitement, I used to love making the lanterns for our house with my parents, deciding on the colors I wanted and wondering if we could attach christmas lights to make it glow. This kind of childhood joy and immersion in culture is something that the kids at the hospital whole-heartedly deserved, and so, that is what we delivered to them.

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The lantern frames

When we brought the supplies to the hospital and got the kids started on their own lantern, their mothers also soon joined in, and in a matter of minutes, all of us worked together enthusiastically to complete the lanterns. Making lanterns with the kids remind me once again of the joy the activity gave me when I was younger – seeing them running around with the lanterns, and turning them into absorbing toys with their imagination, made me realize that they appreciated this part of our culture in a way that I never could.

Having to leave the hospital knowing that it was going to be my last visit, only made me more determined to come back next year, especially if I can once again work with teachers and students who are so committed to the service and, above all, the kids.

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HFK -Preparation for the New Year

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Food and Fun Fair

After weeks of tie-dying shirts, making dream catchers and beading necklaces, the Food and Fun Fair finally dawned on Saturday, the 2nd of April. The fair was cheerful and bustling from the start, and it took me a moment to take in the colorful stalls and find the one that was labelled ‘Hope For Kids’. Thanks to the wonderful teachers we had supervising us, the stall was set up for success, with all our hard work displayed proudly along with many pictures of our work at the hospital.

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The HFK Stall

I, along with many of my fellow members, stopped by the stall frequently  throughout the fair to make sure that the members manning the stall could take a break. Unfortunately, I couldn’t spend all my time at my service stall as, like all the others, I also had to help out with our class stall, the ‘Slip ‘N Slide’. However, I still supported Hope For Kids by sending many of my friends to the stall, and buying something from the stall myself. Apart from raising money for our cause, I think our enthusiasm and commitment conveyed to all our customers our dedication to the service and its importance in Sri Lanka. Hopefully, our time at the fair also served in inspiring others to pay more attention to all the kids in need in Sri Lanka.

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Rations at the Hospital (Photo Credits: Smriti Nagarajan)

 

The Food and Fun Fair was a nice way of welcoming the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, here in Sri Lanka, which falls on the 13th or 14th of April, depending on the year. As this is a time where family and friends get together and celebrate new beginnings, we wanted the kids at the hospital, along with their families, to have the same opportunity. Therefore, as we had done the year before, we had a dry rations fundraiser at school before spring break, so the kids at the hospital could indulge in good food during this happy time. To incentivize our classmates to bring in dry rations (such as rice, milk powder, and other Sri Lankan staple foods), we decided to award the grade that brought in the most rations a pizza party.

 

 

The Thursday before spring break, as we were all struggling to load the immense amount of dry rations into our van to take to the kids, we realized how much our classmates had really delivered. This was especially true in the case of grade 7, who brought in the most amount of dry rations and won the pizza party.

At the hospital, due to the shy smiles and heartfelt ‘thank you’s of the kids and their families as we gave them their rations, it was wonderful to hear that we had brought in extra rations and could donate them to even more families.

As a Sri Lankan looking forward to her own New Year, I’m really grateful that I got to start it in such a simple, yet uplifting way.

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Taking the Rations to the Hospital (Photo Credits: Smriti Nagarajan)

Hope For Kids – Food and Fun Fair

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 3.34.16 PMIn my previous service posts, I talked about making jewelry with the kids that we intended to sell in order to raise funds. Having decided that the best time to do this would be at the Food and Fun Fair in April, as many of the students and parents would be present, we realized we needed more items to sell along with the jewelry.

 

Therefore, in our following group meetings (when we were not visiting the hospital), we have been getting together to create arts and crafts for our stall in April.

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At one session, we made dream catchers using feathers and beads – this was a great way to express my creativity while also planning ahead to improve on our service projects.

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Apart from dream catchers, we also made batik handkerchiefs and headbands – this was my favorite of the arts and crafts as I had never done this before and I found the technique to be fun and interesting. Another think I liked about batiking was the fact that you never knew how the pattern would turn out until after you had applied all the colors and unfolded your creation. It is an even greater feeling to know that our hard work will help the kids at the cancer hospital and allow them to have a better quality of life.

Whilst taking on these arts and crafts projects, we have also been maintaining our visits to the hospital. During our last visit, we made more jewelry with the kids as they really seemed to enjoy it last time. I also talked more with one of the older girls at the hospital who seemed to really want new books to read – a passion we both seem to share. In our next Hope For Kids meeting, I plan on bringing this up in order to give the slightly older kids something to enjoy as well.