Bye bye! (CAS Final Reflection)

As the senior year comes to an end, I would like to reflect on the past two years I’ve dedicated to maintaining a balanced lifestyle by taking the IB. During the first year of IB, I experimented by taking two activities for each CAS component and narrowed it down by the end of that year.

Creativity
➢ COMUN      ➢ Yearbook      ➢ SAISA Art
I feel as though I’ve had the strongest engagement with creativity, I would even incorporate it into service – for example, making a big mural and making posters. Although I began my journey by exploring debate and COMUN for creativity, and to take on an unfamiliar experience and allowed me develop research and speaking skills. Furthermore, COMUN allowed me to engage with issues of global significance directly, especially social and humanitarian issues which interested me.

I didn’t continue onto senior year, mostly because I took on a big commitment to Yearbook, which truly encompassed all learning outcomes from collaborating with other page designers and the community; identifying my strengths and weaknesses in graphic design and how to develop them; and, as editor-in-chief, I also played a big role in planning for the overall yearbook team.

On top of that, I also participated in SAISA Art 2016’s new media workshop. As I continued to make digital art in my free time, this was a good way to extend my experience and take on a new challenge with new resources. Overall, creating a unique piece of artwork during those few days demonstrated my perseverance and ability to experiment with art based upon the theme of justice.

Activity
➢ Scuba Diving      ➢ Yoga      ➢ SAISA Badminton       ➢ Body Conditioning
The two main ways in which I maintained my fitness was through scuba diving and badminton. I achieved a lot during this period, from becoming a certified open water diver in DP1 and making it onto the SAISA badminton team in DP2. Scuba Diving was something completely foreign and therefore a big challenge for me, who definitely wouldn’t consider myself a strong swimmer, but it taught me a lot about being patient with my mistakes and the consequences of my actions, as nowadays we must consider how we treat the ocean and marine life.  Badminton was something I was not very strong in from the beginning, but I am most proud of my progression especially when I didn’t expect to make the team at all. I improved my skills so much during the practice periods and during the actual SAISA, and I would definitely consider it the highlight of my activity activities in CAS. I learned how vital teamwork is in mixed doubles and girls doubles, while growing as a badminton player. 

On the side between these big commitments I also did yoga, body conditioning and fun badminton weekly when these two big activities above were not running, and these can be summarized in their respective posts.

Service
➢ Prison Outreach     ➢ Girls for Girls
Service was also a large part of my CAS experience, as both services were new and posed the same challenges. However, in DP2 when I took up the leadership role in Girls for Girls I definitely developed skills from the previous year such as how to conduct fundraisers and how to engage with global issues – for Prison Outreach, the issue of proper conditions for children living with their imprisoned mothers, and in Girls for Girls, the rehabilitation for young women who have survived sexual abuse. As a founder and leader alongside Ariana for Girls for Girls, this showed my ability to plan and initiate many new activities considering the service AND the Emerge transitional center we were working with were new projects. We communicated as a group often and this was a good example of overcoming previous problems with collaboration, especially because the foundation we worked with were so receptive. I’m most proud that we were able to create a strong foundation for Girls for Girls to continue as a service in the following years through working with all the learning outcomes. 

Girls for Girls – Graduation & Goodbyes

Our service has planned so much within the span of a few months. Instead of making short individual posts, each of these activities will be succinctly summarized in this one post, as well as my final experience with the service I am proud to hand over leadership and resign from service with Ariana, leaving Girls for Girls in Diana’s capable hands!

Mandalas – Coloring Therapy (March 16th, 2017)
The girls from the center were scheduled for a yoga session at our school. Before this session, we decided to show the girls around our school and of course, have a few snacks and drinks before doing yoga. Eventually, we ended up in the library and we calmly colored for around 30 minutes. They seemed proud of their work and wanted to keep it. I hope that we can continue this in the future because it was a very therapeutic activity that was beneficial for both us and the girls. 

Book Drive – Building a Library (March 23rd, 2017)
This was one of our projects which I was very excited about because it was a good way to raise awareness about our cause and involve others in supporting the girls. I remember during our first meeting with the girls, two girls said that they enjoy reading. This also relates to a local and global issue (LO6) – the difficulty girls have to face to obtain an education. Emerge’s transitional center aims to curb this issue. Therefore, we thought it was vital that they had a small sort of library o the girls can read in their freetime alongside their English classes and other classes.

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Poster credits to Diana – to raise awareness and participation from the OSC community

We had plenty of donations, however not all were appropriate, either in terms of content or English level, but it was a good experience for us to sit down and go through the books and consider these obstacles (LO2). The next step is to get a bookshelf because they do not currently have one, and perhaps invest in more Sinhala books or English-to-Sinhala translated books, accompanied with the English version. It would be good to also curate the bookshelf to have books featuring young female role models. It was hard to do this when most of the books donated were kids’ books.

The Girls’ Graduation (April 6th, 2017)
It broke my heart to see these first batch of girls have to leave the center. This was a totally new experience and we learned so much from each other. Although it might’ve seemed sad for them to leave, the graduation ceremony was filled with positive speeches, dances, singing and even a self-defense demonstration. I realized how much they learned at this center and how valuable it is that we were able to be part of that journey. The whole service, for both Ariana and I, was a demonstration of all the learning outcomes, but most of all we planned and initiated and built this service together (LO3) with a small group of dedicated girls, so I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved in only a year. Something like this could only be achieved with pure determination and I know that everyone in the service, including our teacher supervisors Ms. Dahlan and Ms. Kuruppu, truly cares about what we do and why (LO4).  

At the center, we were the first group of young mentors, and they were the first group of mentees. Our whole collaboration with them this year was really themed around the idea of ‘new beginnings’. I’m very glad we were able to share so many memories with them and be a part of their journey.

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OSC Girls for Girls service group in the front row of the graduation ceremony

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Beautiful singing and our murals as a backdrop

Color Holi Run – For Charity!

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Celebrating 5k with the squad!

On the 11th of March 2017, my friends and I participated in a charity run for 5km, beginning at Independence Square, for the Rainforest Trust of Sri Lanka. In order to participate, we each sponsored saplings to be planted in the Uda Kirawa forest corridor. This is globally significant as the NGO is focused on saving and protecting Sri Lanka’s rainforests in a time where these rainforests are barely surviving the negative impacts of deforestation and climate change. The organization is also interested in sustainability which is something that everyone should be concerned with, keeping in mind future generations. 

In terms of ethical issues, not only did we have a great morning of exercise in the Sri Lankan tropical weather, we were able to contribute and understand the significance of what the money we raised went to support and become more aware of a local issue, and connect it to a larger global problem.

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refreshments – photo credits to Illuminate Artists

 Overall, it was a great combination between action, service and fun, which truly made Holi even more of a meaningful celebration than it already is! As you can see, the powder colors thrown at us (which were apparently also biodegradable!) really bring life to the streets of Colombo.

Girls for Girls – Food & Fun Fair 2017

Food and Fun Fair took place on March 11th, 2017. It is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness within our school community whilst also engaging in fundraising projects. Both of these advantages were perfect for our service group, considering we only established this year.

1. Holi Fundraiser
We organized Holi, continuing on from our previous service tradition and it was a success. We did run into a few problems with the rain. Although Holi is still celebrated in the rain, we debated whether to go through with it or not. In the end, it was a high anticipated event and we were able come together as a team (LO5) to make it happen. We earned more funds than we did last year and the clean up and maintenance went much more smoothly than it did last year.

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Poster to advertise the event, designed by Diana

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Holi in the primary playground

2. Selling Caps
Unfortunately for us, although we did get the caps in time for the fair, it was raining for the majority of the time and so the demand for the caps decreased. Overall, we sold them for a reasonable price of 600Rs and sold a few, but not nearly enough considering we still had many left over. I think it’s important to see how we took a risk, considering we wanted to sell something other than t-shirts. This experience taught us how to plan and initiate another fundraiser and definitely was a challenge in which new skills were developed (LO2), since selling caps turned out to be evidently more difficult than selling t-shirts.

Update (30/03/17): With the leftover caps, we decided to put up a publicity on our Facebook page and hopefully with more people being seen wearing it, we will be able to sell even more. Perhaps this can be a project carried onto the next year, considering there are more outdoor events at school in the future that these caps could fare well in.

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Girls for Girls – Exercise Sessions

Above, you can see what we did for our introductory session where we met a few of the girls we would be working with, for the first time. We used a map to show where each of us was from and shared a cake and other snacks with them while talking. For the past few weeks after introducing ourselves to the girls, we planned two sessions focused on physical activity.

1. Yoga on the Balcony
We planned out this session knowing that the girls had also done their own yoga classes without us, meaning it wasn’t something completely new and hard to follow for them. In the beginning it was led by Alex, Ariana and Diana who did yoga after-school activities in school. I learned a bunch of new yoga things myself, such as the sun salutations sequence.

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Yoga with the girls – led by Alex, Ariana and Diana. Picture credits to Kaavya

Afterwards, each of the girls came up to the front and we copied the yoga move they demonstrated. They had big smiles on their faces and weren’t afraid to take the lead! On top of that, we even created a fruit bowl with ice-cream and sat and talked with the girls downstairs. Overall, it was a good way for us to bond and wind down!

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Creative fruit bowl! Picture credits to Alex/Diana

1. Zumba/Just Dance
This session we brought in tutorials from Just Dance and using the projector in one of the classrooms in the center. I haphazardly tried to follow the moves with my limited dance abilities… nonetheless it was a very exciting session at the center. It helped tons that the songs were interactive – during the last part of the session, we all partnered up with a girl from Emerge and did a duet dance and that was definitely my favorite part of the session. I’m glad the girls enjoyed it and one of them even asked for the videos afterwards to dance on their own!

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Girls for Girls – Spreading Our Wings (Completed CAS Project)

 spread your wings (idiom): to use your abilities for the first time in your life to do new and exciting things

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Read this post beforehand for some context. Below, all the research we did to conduct the CAS project has been hyperlinked. 

Our service is a brand new service, so we had a lot of ideas and plans in mind. The one that we decided to tackle first was to make a mural in the garage of the transitional center, to make the place truly ours, but also to welcome the girls. It took around 3 weeks to complete after prior planning  (LO3) and I am so proud of the outcome and the level of commitment that each member of the service displayed in making the mural come to life (LO4), which will be shown in this blog post.

Making a mural was something completely new to us as a group and although we, as leaders, had some experience with making a mural, we had never worked on it together with a larger group of people and on a much larger wall (LO2). For example, we knew using stencils would be more efficient time-wise so while planning, so we brought up this idea during the planning process, and it benefitted us because we both had experience with stencils (LO1).

We found it important that our mural had some meaning and thought. We wanted to express the significance of the global issue (LO6) of how the sexual abuse survivors can move forward in their daily lives and transition back into society as well.

The first step we took was to come up with a design. We found a picture on Pinterest which uses magazine cutouts in the shape of bird silhouettes (below on the right) and used it as inspiration for our own design (below on the left).

We incorporated the same silhouettes but instead, I decided to use pastel colors because they have a calming effect and because they are reminiscent of spring, which is a time of rebirth. I thought the birds were also a great idea because they are often symbolic of discovery and freedom.

Kaavya, from Emerge, also said the mural could be a backdrop for when they take graduation pictures who will stay at the residential transitional center. They only stay at the center for 3 months before they leave and ‘graduate’. In a similar vein, the birds flying upwards is a reflection of how the girls will graduate and leave the ‘nest’ that is the transitional center onto even more ambitious things!

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a fresh start – manually painting the walls white

We painted the wall from yellow to white because when yellow is overused, it can “have a disturbing effect”. 

We also wanted to include a quote, but we had to be mindful that it would be inspirational and not insensitive (LO7). Ariana found a good quote which we decided to use because it was meaningful in the context of what they’ve been through: “No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again”.  

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Hardworking service leaders!

We ran into a problem where we tried to paint the patterns from my initial mock up design, but they didn’t turn out as nicely or as harmonious as we would’ve liked. The patterns clashed with each other too much. In the end, after suggestions from all our different members of the service, we just used solid colors that still stood out against the white wall (LO5).

I’m very proud of the service group as a whole for cooperating and committing themselves to finishing the mural. The process took many visits over many weeks and maintaining our interest was quite difficult but we pulled through in the end (LO4). It taught me how important it is to communicate even when we ran into problems (the patterns) and also allowed us to grow closer as a group. I can’t wait for the girls at the center to see it and hopefully like it as much as we do!

Thank you so much Ms. Johnson for all the supplies, Ms. Dahlan and Ms. Kuruppu for your support.

Girls for Girls – Emerging as a New Service

We have partnered with Emerge Global (Emerge Lanka) to become the first young group of students to be interested in a long term commitment for the girls who survived sexual abuse in the country! We are also the first group of mentors who are around the same age as them, because most of their mentors are adults. 

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our new logo for the service, created by Khalis

Our logo exhibits the bond between us and the girls at the center in a simplistic way through the linking Gs. We are grateful that Khalis could make such an impactful design!

September 1, 2016
We met with two representatives of Emerge Lanka, Kaavya and Alex. Although we had already done a lot of preliminary planning concerning the different activities to do with the girls, our activities were keeping in mind the environment of the shelter (locked gates, not as well lit and other restrictions). They soon told us about how we could become mentors for the girls in the Emerge Center instead of the shelter. This broadened the types of activities we had in mind, since it is a center directly under Emerge. All of the girls in the service group were excited about this! Different activities could help the girls in their reintegration and growth. I am so excited not only to teach them, but to learn from them as well (maybe I will pick up some useful Sinhala or bead-making skills!)

I also made a flyer/poster to raise awareness of our service and its aims, in case there is an event in the future, we can get OSC families and the community involved and interested in what we are doing. It highlights the key issues linked to the service and about the local community as well, through statistics:

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September 8, 2016
We visited the center today with Ms. Tassy and Ms. Rangika, our teacher supervisors. It was mostly a visit to survey the different rooms where we could conduct activities. We all went over our plans with Alex and Kaavya again. All the effort that went into decoration was amazing – for example, the girls’ rooms were decorated with different self portraits and framed images with motivational quotes. They said they even worked with psychologists in order to determine what colors were suitable for each room – blue walls were calming and appropriate for the counseling room. 

As you can see above on the right, there was a wall with different positive adjectives and nouns to inspire the girls. It brought the biggest smile on my face to see something so simple, yet so encouraging.

On the left, you can see the yellow wall we are going to paint and make into our own personalized Girls for Girls area (and us being a bunch of cuties)! The girls live and learn in the center for only 3 months before they leave, and Alex and Kaavya suggested it could be the backdrop for the photos when the 16 girls graduate from the center. I hope that this wall can become another source of inspiration for the girls – I want them to pass by it and think of us, but also think of the life ahead of them. Ariana and I have been planning properly for a mural that will convey a meaningful message through this mural, not simply something that is aesthetically pleasing.

I will create another post about the mural making, as it is a lengthy process.
To read more about the center, click here.