After approximately 3 weeks of planning, participants of MUN led classrooms as leaders,to teach students in secondary about the theme “Youth as a Global Citizen”. This preparation was all leading up to the day our school decided to celebrate UN Day on October 9th, 2015! In the 3-4 sessions of MUN before this date, we spent time brainstorming topics for classrooms that would be appropriate for the grade levels assigned. It was concluded that the topics were: impact of immigration (grades 6-7); racism (grades 8-10) and legalization of marijuana (grades 11-12). Thank you Luke and OSC’s photographer for the pictures!
preparing to welcome special UN Day guests and speakers with garlands/leis
I worked in a team with Ariana to teach grades 8-10 about racism in one classroom for one and a half hours, but we collaborated with the other leaders who were teaching the same topic. Together we came up with a lesson plan. In the class, we planned and did talk about our own experiences and attempted to define racism, how people are affected on a larger scale, and in order to understand our roles as global citizens, how to avoid and combat racism.
organizing the students into groups
I think we finally knew how difficult it was for these children to engage themselves and to actively comment on the different videos we showed. It took a lot of encouragement to start a deeper discussion about the topics above. When we gave them time to discuss, only a few of the older kids offered their opinion. The discussions were too open ended to engage people in 8th and 10th grade. It was hard to guide their discussion and help them plan skits when we gave them free choice to do whatever they want in that period. What helped was the guidance of the teachers who were in the room who gave us advice as teachers themselves. It was a good learning experience because I never tried to teach people before in that setting about the issue of racism. I was a little afraid to respond to their comments when it seemed like they did not get the point of the exercise, because it felt like I was dictating what they should think rather than guiding their thoughts. I think that hesitation was telling of my public speaking problem/confidence which I need to work on.
Overall, I think leading UN Day in those classrooms showed that I have some potential to successfully teach a big group of people about something, though I need to reconsider how they will respond and give them more guidance in order for it to be successful and for them to learn something.The students wrote responses about what they learned which was a good exercise to see if we had been able to teach them something new. It was also a good way to begin MUN before practice debates, because it drove me to be a leader to the students and therefore speak with confidence whilst engaging in global issues.
On September 25th 2015, I was invited to go to a debating competition at another international school in Colombo, Elizabeth Moir, against other debating teams in Colombo. I went along with Shloak, Sanoj and Ariana; Shloak and Sanoj were familiar with this type of competition before, whereas Ariana and I went for the first time. I had very little prior experience in the style of debate that took place, making it was a huge challenge for me personally.
With barely any preparation for this competition, I think I identified my strengths and weaknesses in debate. I know I can listen attentively and contribute some arguments, but I need to work on articulating it with the confidence that most of the debaters had. It was great to also debate about issues of global importance. We participated in the two debates as the opposition to motions that allowed us to consider the ethical implications of giving parents a choice to implant GPS trackers in their children, and whether we should prevent climate change or adapt to it. As a team, we supported each other. We helped each other and identified how we could strengthen our ideas. It seems like we worked very well in the small time constraints given to formulate our points. Everyone had a respective role (1st speaker, 2nd speaker, 3rd speaker) and it was necessary to cooperate with one another.
Although we may not have won that day for either debates, it’s safe to say I wasn’t disheartened because I learned a lot of new skills which will aid me in MUN and any other further debating experiences. I became familiar with the style of debate (British Parliamentary style) and how to develop arguments. It helped the most to be around very experienced debaters albeit that I was a very weak one. I was challenged to work harder – after all, everyone starts off somewhere, and I plan to keep working to develop my debating skills.
writing notes/planning for the first debate (20 minutes)
Mural outside of prison, from Google Maps
On September 24th 2015, our service group Prison Outreach visited the women’s ward of the Welikada Prison for the first time. We prepared a few activities for this first visit, where we would see the children living with their mothers. Ariana and I prepared coloring pages and coloring pencils and markers for the children. I think our first visit as a group really allowed us to see who we were helping and the conditions they lived in. As a group this exposure was crucial, especially as a new service. Unfortunately, I can only document the visit in words because bringing in cameras/recording devices wasn’t allowed. Approving the first visit wasn’t easy; we had to get our parent’s permission and the prison’s permission, which was a process that took about one or two weeks.
Upon arriving at the prison, I was a little bit anxious; I wasn’t sure what to expect, only what our service teacher supervisor had said. There were a lot of precautions to take before entering: they had to make sure we were dressed appropriately and they conducted a body check. While waiting we also saw the many visitors, and the atmosphere was a little hectic.
However, when we finally approached the children at their daycare within the prison, they shouted, “They’re coming!” and greeted us. Any nervousness I had beforehand was gone; the children were so welcoming and so were their mothers, who were telling the children to meet us. Working with the children afterwards and coloring was a delight! It made us truly feel like we shared something new with them, especially because they were so excited. Some mothers were a little protective of their children, but I think with more visits we can slowly break that wall between us. The children were of varying ages and some were more shy than others, yet some of them opened up when they saw how fun it was to draw and read stories together. I found it difficult to communicate with them in Sinhala… but it didn’t stop me from trying anyways (telling the kids that their coloring was “lassana”/pretty in Sinhala repeatedly). In the end I attempted to be very expressive and engaging with the children with gestures. When we left, the mothers are children all gathered outside to bid us farewell with warm smiles and waves.
In the bus, the whole service group reflected on the visit which was extremely helpful; I found out that other people shared my feelings and it brought us closer. Teaching the children was also a personal learning experience. I could figure out certain phrases in Sinhala to praise the children and I learned a new style of interacting with children, without words. My childhood is from theirs. I knew with this visit I can finally make a difference. I can emotionally connect to children who don’t share the luxuries I have in my life. I understand now that this is something I want to commit myself to, because I empathized with these children on another level. Even though I was enjoying myself and so were the children, afterwards I realized they do not get to enjoy that experience daily whereas I did when I was a child. That only strengthened my determination to help them in every way possible through this service.
In fostering that relationship, I can’t wait to learn more about the children and possibly their mothers with following visits. Balancing between creative and physical activities allows every visit to be unique, not only for us but for the children. Now that we have seen the conditions, we know that they are in need of cleaning supplies and perhaps a makeover of their surroundings. We decided to paint the interior of their classroom after the October break. We were coloring in the classroom, and it was a little gloomy and in need of a paint job. Instead of painting it a plain color we planned to make a small mural, which would mean we can get other artists from our school involved in the designing process. This would also create more meaning to our contribution and raise awareness within our school’s community.
In our next visit, we are planning to bring in gifts for the children’s hygiene and diet and play outdoor games with them. I hope the children are as excited to see us as they were before, because I can’t wait to see them again.