Final CAS Post

 

My CAS blog is a celebration of many of the endeavors I took on over my IB DP journey and portrays the way in which I was able to apply various areas of my learning to extracurricular activities and beyond; so leaving it all behind is a bit of a bittersweet feeling. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that it played a crucial role in ensuring that I balanced my work and school life. An equilibrium that is essential to us, especially as students in the final stages of their IB experience. Looking back through my posts, I retrospectively feel a great deal of joy as I am reminded of all that I have accomplished in the past two years despite the many obstacles that came my way. I feel as though this experiences has most certainly heightened my versatility in terms of balancing school, creativity, activity and service.

*For the purpose of this post I will be spotlighting only a few memorable instances in which I exercised the CAS learning outcomes in my creativity, activity and service related projects.  

Creativity

From learning new languages on my own, to getting creative in the kitchen, taking part in prestigious courses and events  and promoting the growth of my own football editing account, I truly made an effort to make the most use of my time and talents in a way that would benefit everyone. Simultaneously, I also ensured that I was able to reflect on the strengths and shortcomings of each of my experiences.

(LO1) One of my longtime projects, “Reef Revival” I thrived in launching our social medias, getting widespread involvement and completing our action, while on the the downside we struggled with things like not being able to achieve our full potential due to the obstacle of Covid. Naturally this never hindered us as we worked tirelessly to make our project the success that it was, and even then we were happy to reflect on what we could do to improve future cleanups. This inspired a healthy mindset in me that I became open to receiving feedback and even identifying my own strengths and weaknesses.

(LO2) What comes to mind immediately when thinking about  accomplishing the goals of undertaking new challenges, is my video editing adventures; a project that I took on when I was quite young (then gave up on) but decided to revive my passion for it in the DP for CAS. I was incredibly pleased that my accounts took off and that I got the hard earned recognition for the many hours I put into finding content, learning new software and painstakingly editing over the course of the years. In fact, given you know how much I love football, being seen by some of my all time favorite players and clubs, to this day, is one of my favorite personal achievements. That is to say of course, that it wasn’t without effort that that was accomplished. For example, I needed to push myself to try harder and make better quality edits using more advanced software. In fact, over the 2 years, I can safely say that I tried out and learned about 6 different editing applications (which isn’t near as easy as it sounds). Not only that but on of my biggest personal challenges was staying motivated, as editing so regularly was a bit of a tedious task, but I overcame that annoyance but creating a healthy and balanced editing schedule for myself.

(LO4) Initiating and planning CAS experiences in the IB creatively came primarily, in the form of me being appointed the Service Leader for the Hope for Kids service group in 2021 after a long-term commitment to the service group that I had been a keen member of since I joined school. (LO3) One of my foremost duties in my run as the service leader, was to ensure that the members of our team would be without fail, able to help the children of the cancer home in Maharagama regardless of the local interferences during the pandemic, before and after. My tasks as service leader only became infinitely difficult as  Covid -19 struck the island, as we were prevented from visiting in person and could not meet the CCC Cancer Home’s beloved patients, but I ensured that the group stayed on the top of their game in terms of doing our part for the kids, and also the general OSC community. For instance, the Hope for Kids Staff Cricket match was one of the events suggested by myself, wherein we decided that we would have an all staff vs staff game at the OSC field in order to act as a fundraiser during which we also hosted multiple minor fundraising activities such as selling ice cream and thambili (king coconut). This took many months of planning and coordination as we had to reach out to a variety of stake holders from doctors to staff, parents and other members of the student ready to allow it to happen and we had a limited period of time under which we had to organize the event. And in retrospect, I couldn’t me happier with the way in which it was carried out given our circumstances; especially as we raised over 62,000 rupees from that one event alone, among the many other projects that I made possible through my role as Hope for Kids’ sole service leader in the 2021/2022 school year 🙂 

(LO4)  Such long-term commitments, have also made way to some really important milestones in my personal life. In the summer of 2019, I chose to pursue an internship at a renowned law firm, Sudath Perera Associates, where I worked for about a month in the Intellectual Property department. Following my eye-opening experience at the law firm, and convinced by the events that followed it ie. the BLM movement, I was convinced that legal order and justice was a potential career path I was interested in pursuing in the future. My CAS journey only heightened my passion for this path, as projects of mine such as Reef Revival only further attested to my keen sense of justice. Needless my desire to study law was only cemented in the following years as I took part in activities such as the Harvard Future Lawyer’s Program, the Margin and the IVY Girls lead program. They pushed me to learn more about how justice is achieved in the real world through creative solutions, and now, it is partly the reason why I will be pursuing a career and degree in law in the near future.

(LO5) Although I cannot pinpoint one specific example of when collaboration was pivotal to success, I can confirm that collaboration was the key to my achievements in nearly all creative ventures. Whether is be teammates and group members working alongside me to achieve service related goals, or whether it be my mom sharing a recipe with me for home cooked meals, or the team of aspiring attorneys that it took to win our final Harvard mock trial, teamwork has always been key to ensuring success in the long term. While many of these endeavors were initiated by myself, each person involved had a vital role to play in everything from logistics to the final activity being carried out, and for that I can’t be more grateful.

(LO6) Matters of global significance that I have combatted over the past few years using my creative ventures range from combatting against the marginalization of minority groups (the Margin), women’s empowerment (IVY Girls Lead, IVY Girls Rise) , gender inequality (women’s football edits), child cancer (Hope for Kids) to marine pollution (Reef Revival) and crime (Harvard Law Program) among other things.

(LO7) One of the lesser recognized goals in my DP CAS journey was to help out more at home, i.e. learn how to cook, do chores etc. Anyone who has been following my blog for long enough, would see the major learning curve I saw in my cooking abilities over the last few months. I had been working tirelessly to make meals that would simultaneously help lessen the workload for my mother while also enabling me to learn how to cook in preparation for university. I realized, that from an this was the right thing to do as my mom does so much of that during the day, I only wished that I had allocated more time to it because I often had to make exceptions for days when I was stressed under the amount of work I had. This goal helped both focus on the wellbeing of others in my family as well as myself in the long run. Personal wellbeing and mental health also had a great role to play in my creativity as often, it was things such as meditation, art or playing the guitar that helped me de-stress during some difficult times and by writing about it in my blog I was able to suggest ways of leading a healthier emotional lifestyle to others.

On another note, I could also say that my initiatives such as Reef Revival and other such interdisciplinary service ventures had a key role to play in making the world a better place for the party concerned whether it be young girls or local marine life.

Activity

(LO4) It is with a lot of pride that I am able to say that I pushed myself harder than ever before in my life to achieve some pretty incredible things in the field of sport in the past couple of years. If anything, I jumped at the opportunity to try different activities while remaining strongly committed to my pre-existing ones! 

Here is a list of all the sports / physical activities I attempted and took part in over the past 2 years:

  • badminton
  • biking
  • body boarding
  • diving
  • fishing
  • football
  • golf
  • hiking
  • kayaking
  • surfing
  • tennis
  • volleyball
  • workouts

(LO1) Each of the home-workouts that I took part in my time as a DP student, were specifically tailored to meet my physical needs. For instance, any and all football trainings led by me were specifically focused on certain aspects of my performance to improve upon. For instance, when I was at home training alone during the pandemic, I ensured that I increased the ratio of cardio training that I took on so that my stamina wouldn’t suffer too badly when I got back on the pitch. I suppose now I can say that it probably worked because we’ve come out on a win every football game of the season this year!

(LO2) From the list provided above, biking (for longer distances), bodyboarding, fishing, golf, hiking, kayaking and surfing are all brand new sports that I chose to take on this year. I seized every opportunity I could to take part in these activities and can fondly claim that although there are a few of them such as fishing and golf which are less suited to my tastes, I gave them my all and overcame the challenges that arose with them, such as learning to work as a team to navigate along the water on a kayak.

(LO3) Many of the home workouts along with my diving adventures were both planned and initiated carefully by me over time while I also constructed many of the lesson plans for the children I coached at Decathlon’s La Academia where even I took part. Therefore, I took the initiative to lead by example with the activities I kept up with.

(LO4) Football and Badminton have been two of my longest running commitments in terms of activity that started since childhood. However, during my CAS journey, I never once failed to remain faithful to my training regimes and games etc. In fact, I would even say that it is those factors that contributed heavily to me accomplishing high levels of achievement in both from playing both internationally, locally (for club and varsity) and at an National Team level for football (ie. Maldives, School Football Games (seasonal win streak), TAFA) and competing in the national for badminton (69th annual championships). In fact I have been so committed to my football endeavors that I even began coaching younger children on a voluntary basis so that I could pass on my knowledge to them.

 (LO5) As you may have noticed, many of the sports I play and love, are team oriented. In many of the games over the preceding seasons I was given the honor of taking more of leadership role in my teams as I was able to impart my experience on the younger players. Ie. coaching little kids, captaining the girl’s football team at school. That also goes without saying, that the reason why I love football in particular as my primary sport, is because of the energy that comes with celebrating with a team. No game could ever be won without everyone from the spectators to the players putting effort into it, and that’s the beauty of the game.

(LO6) Keeping fit and healthy has been a key element of focusing on improving my mental health; something that so many teenagers, especially students of the IB suffer with nowadays. Likewise, staying fit has also enabled me to combat things such as negative eating habits and illness, thus improving my immunity during the pandemic for example.

(LO7) I have ensured that I have been respectful to my teammates, coaches and alike and acted in a way that reflects strong sportsmanship like behavior which makes the field / court a much better place to thrive on.

Service

  • Coaching at La Academia (Assistant head coach)
  • Girls RISE (Mentor)
  • Helping out at home
  • Hope for Kids (Service Leader)
  • Ivy Girls Lead
  • Reef Revival (Founder)
  • The Margin (Journalist)

Given the content covered in the previous sections of the blog (much of which was interdisciplinary) I feel as though I have sufficiently discussed the learning outcomes associated with my service activities in the sections above. In a more general sense however, I am grateful that I have been able to access so many incredible leadership positions in so many different areas of service, that each combat a different global issue and I am amazingly proud of myself for having accomplished all those roles even despite the obstacles that the pandemic for instance has thrown my way. On a parting note, I hope that the things that I have made possible in my involvement in each Service activity has improved someone’s life for the better in some way, through both raising awareness and taking action.

To conclude, I have thoroughly enjoyed my CAS journey and come away a better person because of it.

With love,

Devanga

“Balance is a feeling derived from being whole and complete; it’s a sense of harmony. It is essential to maintaining quality in life and work.” – Joshua Osenga, cubicle slave

 

CAS Project!

REEF REVIVAL 2022

Introduction:

One of the most pivotal components of the Diploma program is naturally the long awaited CAS Project. The CAS project requires the student takes individual initiative in order to plan and carry out a certain meaningful endeavor.

In reality, ever since DP1 I have had a very clear idea of what  I wanted to do for this project, wanting to do something that I was not only passionate about but also achieved multiple learning outcomes in one go. What was my idea? Planning, organizing and carrying out Dive Cleanups for Reef Revival (the non-profit collective I created in 2019 to clean up Sri Lanka’s oceans through diving). We have made significant progress in this area since I inadvertently began my CAS project almost a years ago, and this past weekend I just completed another renewed cycle of our cleanups but this time, on a different coast of Sri Lanka thus expanding our horizons even further!

Fish Trap Nets

Here are some of the learning outcomes my project has achieved:

LO1-

Having dived since I was 11 years old and having carried out dive cleanups since the 10 grade for my personal project has given me a lot of the experience I needed to make this project a success.  Going into this, I was able to have a clear idea of my strengths and shortcomings as in my previous cleanups we have met a few obstacles with doing things like bringing in too many people, facing ethical dilemmas regarding what to and what not to retrieve from the ocean and also having struggled to bring certain items to the surface due to entanglement. This time around I was able to ensure that we had less people on board and brought the right tools to detangle certain debris. We did have a fair share of shortcomings, but it’s all a learning experience for the future (which I will elaborate on later).

LO2-

Carrying out a dive cleanup has no shortage of challenges in the long run. Whenever you are carrying something of this nature out the most important thing to consider is that there are people’s lives on the line and that cannot be compromised and ensuring that people are safeguarded becomes your number one priority. Thus, during the duration of the dive and before I had to ensure that people were aware of the dangers and were qualified enough for the dives especially considering that one of them was a nitrox dive (enables for a longer stay underwater at a specific depth) which was made especially difficult by the fact that it was a new dive site that not even the instructors have carried a cleanup on before. As for new skills in my previous diving experiences I wasn’t allowed to carry any tools i.e. knives, nets etc. but this time I was able to so I had to master the use of that while also learning how to take part in nitrox dives since usually they require a specialty course.

LO3-

Support from the very start of the project!

This clean up and my overall project Reef Revival in particular has been my initiative since I started out at the start of DP1. My only cleanup I had done previously was during my personal project in MYP 5, but all of this was relatively new to me. I began Reef Revival in 2019 with the intention of raising awareness and doing my part as a diver to clean up the oceans. Sri Lanka frequented in its carrying out of beach cleanups however, the undersea areas always remained neglected and it was visible. A lot has happened since the start of my CAS project which as I’m writing this, I realize has been a much longer commitment than I remembered. Throughout this process  I have kept in touch and reached out to all of these individuals in order to make things happen. I had trained divers with the help of Sri Lanka Diving Tours to carry out these dives, planned and organized timings, dates, kept up with progress and even been very hands on the with actual carrying out aspects. Reef Revival has now expanded from underwater cleanups to beach cleanups and now ensure that regular dive cleanups are carried out in not only Negombo but Trincomalee and Batticaloa with beach cleanups in Mt. Lavinia. We contribute data to organizations like PADI Aware and now even have our own social media that we use to spread awareness. We also have 2 featuring articles (interviews) on Sri Lanka’s Sunday times about this!

LO4-

I don’t think there is any better way of showing my commitment to something than a 7 year hobby turned into a personal project which led to an environmental organization for change being created. Like I mentioned earlier, I have been diving since  I was 11 years old and I am now a certified Advanced Open Water Diver. My personal project was just a glimpse at the possibilities that were to come in the upcoming years as I decided to take things one step forward and expand upon this inkling of an idea that has impacted so many. This has been a long work in progress featuring change, adapting, expanding and networking and it will only continue to grow in the future.

LO5-

It started out as my personal project idea and then evolved into an diverse endeavor that has since included everyone from the diving community, to friends and family to strangers, activists and even global organizations with nearly 18 dives which I have directly been involved in completed. It has been fruitful to say the least. You may have noticed how I went from the use of I to the use of “we” earlier on. Because that is exactly what this initiative is about. It went from one little 15 year old girl’s idea to a community wide project within a matter of years and that’s what it took to make this function and big thank you is owed to Sri Lanka Diving Tours, PADI, IVY Girls Lead, The Sunday Times and even the OSC community for making it possible! (That goes without saying my mom and dad also had a huge role to play in this, inspiring my love for diving and making all of the cross country trips.) Completing this project has helped me realize the importance of teamwork. People from all works of life and knowledge about dive cleanups contributed to this cause and the result has been IMMENSE. This goes without saying that there is absolutely no possible way in which this would have been completed without external help, carrying out a cleanup and raising awareness thereafter is no small feat!

LO6-

Underwater pollution has immense global resonance especially as of late. With many species of marine organisms going extinct or being on the brink of extinction, the importance of sustaining this biodiversity is so very essential. Fish and other species that live within these areas of debris accumulation are largely at risk of dying due to issues like swallowing plastic, net entanglement and starvation which is why I chose to pursue this project in the first place. By no means did it feel right to allow animals to suffer due to our negligence in a way that could cause a massive chain reaction starting with impacting the food chain. In addition to this the presence of debris was also impacting local tourism as in Trincomalee for example tourists were less and less willing to visit certain dive sites due to the lack of aesthetic appeal. Nothing excites them or myself about paying hefty sums of money to dive and having to swim through schools of plastic.

LO7-

In the past two years, all blogs I have uploaded and the activities that I have pursued within them have always considered the ethical implications of my actions. In this project especially that subject was centerfold. I had to ensure that all divers were safe and aware. I was ethical in making sure that no relics were removed from the Swami Rock dive site, and ensured to not harm any animals in the process. Lastly, I credited everyone responsible for the success of this project in the long run and the general ideals of Reef Revival itself are very much centered around the idea of being ethical and ensuring that animals don’t suffer because of human ignorance.

One Last Dive (For Now):

The last two dive cleanups I carried out was in Negombo the past weekend. The first dive was a nitrox dive carried out at Derana Gala, a 25 m dive site and Diyamatte Gala which was close to a commercial fishing area at around 14 meters depth. After a briefing and around a month of planning which often got pushed back due to Covid concerns, we finally set out to dive. This time around I had been given all the gear I required to release debris myself which was exciting. On our dive we had 7 people with us, my brother, myself, my diving instructor Feli, a volunteer from Germany called Johann and our boat driver Raja. This may seem like a small number of people but especially with specialized dives it is always best to keep the number of people to a minimum.

The first dive was successful and thankfully there was much less debris than we expected since the site was quite far from the shore and any civilization. But it should be alarming that there was still debris there despite how isolated the place was. The debris we primarily found on the first dive was plastic bags and bottles ( a lot of them). The second dive was completed on the following day. This time we had a slightly bigger crew, a friend of ours, Steph from Bristol, and another one of the recreational divers joined in on the fun. This dive site was  much more polluted than the last because as it turns out our dive instructor had made the mistake of telling the local fishermen that there was a thriving reef near by. And much to our horror by the time we got there there were at least 9 boats anchored right on the reef! This time around the dive conditions were a little more rocky and we had to steer well clear of the boats above us. The fishermen’s presence had created a notable change in the reef. There was lunch sheets, plastic, hooks, nets, bottles, cages almost anything you name it, they had it. We spent a good 40 minutes or so retrieving this debris before we headed back home. The data was then logged onto the Project AWARE site and also shared on Reef Revival’s social media. It was a long two days but I felt a sense of pride in completing it and Feli and his son Sashaan (who I dived with in Trinco) pledged to keep the cleanups going in all 3 locations even when  I was in university.

All that ends well, ends well

It’s over! (It’s not, not really). Although I have done my share of writing for the CAS project, Reef Revival will not be stopping anytime soon! We have so much to do, and while I can’t be around the island throughout the year I have left enough of a legacy behind for these cleanups to be continued where they are due. Now I might be heading to university in a few months but I do have a little brother who is just as keen about diving as I am, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will be able to take over my job of planning and initiating future cleanups. That being said, I will be as involved as possible given the circumstance of course 🙂

 

 

Service Leader: Hope for Kids 2021-2022

Service Leader + Christmas / New Years Project

Sometime towards the end of last year I was notified that the position for service leader in Hope for Kids was opening up, since one of our previous leaders, Kenji, graduated. I had been a part of this service group dedicatedly for 3 years and I had tried to make the most of my contributions to the group itself in my time there. At the start of this year, I was elated to receive an e-mail initiating me as a service leader alongside my classmate Saesha. This had been a longtime commitment of mine with a cause that I was extremely passionate about contributing to, and I had also come with the added experience of knowing the trials and tribulations of trying to function in a service group in the midst of a pandemic. The e-mail that reached out to us also let us know that we were going to try and do our yearly Christmas present drive again this year, and that we had to perhaps reach out and go shopping with last year’s bake sale & donation funds to get the children gifts this year, but sadly this plan was halted as two of the patients at the home ended up getting COVID. And like I’ve said time and time again, our number one priority is ensuring the health of the children that we work with, so we were in mutual agreement under restrictions from the CCC house that we would be postponing the event.

However, after having an initial meeting with my service supervisor, Ms. Tanuja, we decided that we could still attempt to maintain the Christmas cheer, by creating a talent show for them and by doing a toy drive in early January in time for new year, and thus, Saesha and I were tasked with reaching out to the IT department and various members of the OSC staff to see if they were willing to put something small together for the patients at the CCC home. We also created a sign up sheet for student performers and are currently waiting for that to be filled up, although I must say, we already have a great variety of performances coming in from the staff members who were more than willing to participate which is very touching to see.

In the upcoming year, I look foreword to taking more of a leadership role in our service group and hopefully carrying it through another highly successful year once we are able to meet again! Oh and before I sign off, after some convincing we also decided that we would be lowering the age limit so that we could increase the manpower when we are not visiting the home 🙂

 

 

Helping Out At Home + Teaching 8th Graders

Service During Lockdown

In my first few weeks of DP2 I realized that it may take some time for school to resume service activities considering the uncertainty regarding whether we’ll be returning to school in person or not, so in the meantime, I decided that I would continue to give back to others in some way in the ways in which I could from the safety of my home during the pandemic. While usually I either attend multiple service groups during and after school ours with Hope For Kids and other school communities or carry out football lessons with primary school children. Unfortunately, neither of those things have been a possibility recently with the looming consequences of, you guessed it, another nationwide lockdown. So instead I decided that the best way to do my part in service would be through helping out at home and by tutoring a few of my brother’s friends online.

Just today, for example I was on a call with 2 of the girls from the 8th grade and they mentioned that they were struggling with a few of their assignments and certain concepts so today I sat with them on google meets for two hours and helped them overcome the hurdles of understanding the physics of waves and helped one of the review and reflect on their “perfect paragraphs” for English. Now naturally, I am not teacher by any means, but I had done these units previously in the MYP and I still had some of my notes and projects that I used to help them understand the concepts. For example to explain the concept of waves I pulled up one of my old E-Maze presentations which I made in the 10th grade demonstrating what waves are so that they could have a clearer idea of the definitions and prepare for their upcoming test. Likewise, for English homework help, I simply gave them certain pointers on where they could potentially have made improvements and without giving them the answers gently guided them into thinking about self improvement in the subject. This isn’t at the moment a regular occurrence but if they find my help useful in any way I told them that I would be happy to help :))

A freshly showered bella

That aside, at home I’ve been helping out a lot more with things like chores. Recently our helper went back home so currently its just my mom, my brother and I at home and since most of the time we’re on our laptops doing school while mom is working around the house I felt that it was nice to take some of the burden off of her shoulders by offering to cook every now and then and by taking care of things like bathing the dog. These may seem like simple gestures but they make a world of difference for her since she has to run a lot of work to do and I aim to be a bit more involved when the holidays roll around.

 

Baking + Sunday Dinners

Baking and Making Sunday Dinners for My Family

During the course of my CAS journey one of my favorite endeavors that I decided to take up was cooking. It initially started as a one off thing but has soon become a regular occurrence in my household as of late and one that has not only been beneficial to me but my family as well. At home we like to switch things up whenever possible, order in different cuisines, try out new recipes etc. and lately as college has been drawing nearer and nearer my parents have reminded me how useful a skill knowing how to make your own food can be as you grow up. In addition to this I find cooking extremely therapeutic, it allows me to concentrate on whichever action I am doing and I momentarily let go of all of the stressful things in life. Another advantage of making meals on the occasion is that I get to give my mom a well deserved rest where she doesn’t have to cook and clean for the night while I simultaneously get to learn a lot about the cultures which my recipes come from.

Strawberry cheesecake & Chocolate chip cookies!

 

Over the past term I have backed everything from chocolate chip cookies to cheesecake while I’ve made dishes from all around the world. The key component of making everything is a lot of care, patience and practice as sometimes, doing things as simple as frying chicken can be extremely painstaking and time consuming but the end result is almost always more worth it if you put the effort in. The next mantra for the kitchen I would use is that not everything is going to work out, some recipes might do amazing but others maybe not so much. For example, this weekend I made chocolate chip cookies, now these were somewhat of a cheat meal because it was a pre-mixed pack and when I tasted the batter it didn’t taste too out of the ordinary but the moment you bit into it after it was baked it felt sweet enough to give you diabetes, which upon reflection wasn’t all too nice especially since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Another thing I’ve learned to deal with is that ingredients aren’t always readily available, especially during this pandemic since most of what we order is done online so I need to substitute quite a few ingredients whenever possible. Here are a few of my absolute favorite meals that I made over the past 3 weeks.

KBQ, also known as Korean Barbecue Chicken is a Korean dish which consists of crispy buttermilk battered chicken doused in spicy gochujang sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. KBQ is something that my brother and I always wanted to order in but since the store closed during lockdown we decided that we’d make it ourselves. The cook time was actually quite long because you had to wait for the chicken to marinate and then fry them till they’re cooked but the end result was very worth the wait.

Chili Con Carne on the other hand, is a Mexican dish which loosely translates to chili with meat, the dish consists of a delicious seasoned stew which is usually accompanied on a bed of rice with cheese on top, this dish was fairly easy to make and honestly delectable even though this was the first time I had tried it. The second part of this dish is the Hot Butter Cuttlefish which is one of my all time favorite side dishes which to my surprise is actually a part of Sri Lankan Chinese fusion cuisine! Unfortunately this time around there wasn’t any flour at home to make the crispy batter with, but it was just as delicious without.

The third dish that I found was a great success was my mom’s take on a Cajun/ Creole dish called Jambalaya which is basically a rice dish with vegetables and meat combined with rice. My mom’s recipe of the dish doesn’t necessarily follow the original ingredient list but uses an amazing combination of ham and rice with minimal vegetables instead! Jambalaya also contains influences from regions like Spain, Africa and France and so it can be said that many regions have their own take on the dish with different meat and vegetable variations but that’s what makes this dish so diverse in the first place.

I would highly recommend trying these out at home!!

 

Harvard Pre-Law Academy + In Conversation With Forbes’ Laurel Donnellan

Summer Endeavors 

Sometime towards the end of last year I loosely touched on my acceptance into Harvard’s  pre-law program. Among the many external courses I took part in in DP1 I was informed of two potential opportunities that I could take part in over the summer and after 2 essays, one questionnaire and an interview I received the news that I had been selected. Now that all of it is said and done, let me catch all of you up on a little bit of what I did this summer.

Harvard Pre-Law Academy

  < Day 1

After receiving my acceptance letter I could barely contain my excitement, I had made it into a law course! One that was sponsored by Harvard nonetheless! Even though I was happy I got selected in I was also just as nervous. Harvard is something that I have always associated synonymously with academic excellence so naturally, I had my fair share of nerves since I assumed the other 19 selected students would be mini Einsteins.

In the weeks that followed I received multiple emails briefing me on what I was to except from a course overview to a note docket and itinerary. I was then introduced to the two course leaders, Nisha and Maia who led our sessions for the upcoming weeks. The first few sessions were rather predictable, we did our introductions got introduced to different law terminology and judicial systems and were split into various breakout rooms to talk to conduct research in. I soon got to know quite a few of my peers some of whom I still keep in touch with today, and naturally they were all as smart as I expected them to be but they were also very welcoming and just bounced ideas off of each other. At the end of it all I can even confidently say that I learned just as much from my friends as I did my mentors. As the final week approached, things turned up a notch. Our mentors decided to introduce the main component of the program: a mock trial. Yes, you heard me right, an actual mock trial based off of an actual trial that would be mediated by Nisha and Maia in the end as unbiased judges.

They decided to pick our roles within our teams at random and much to my shock I ended up being given the role of the primary defendant! This was huge, I was going to be playing the defendant and defense attorney for myself as Dana M. Colby the principal of Michigan High School who was accused of enabling a memorandum that had to do with the alleged unlawful seizing of student, Pat Roman’s bag in a civil case. This meant that my partner Nubar (who would play co-defendant as the teacher who seized the bag (Terry Wordshaw)) and I, would act as defense attorneys while the other members of our team would be responsible for gathering data, cross examination and other logistics in a fight against the plaintiffs who claimed that privacy comes above the safety of the students seeing that the teacher came up empty handed aside from a cigarette after the search. Initially I was concerned because I personally sided with the plaintiffs argument at first, but naturally, one of the first steps to being a good lawyer is to put your own opinions aside. Nubar was extremely diligent and myself, her, a boy named Iqbal and a girl named Nadine spent the good part of the next week working tirelessly at finishing opening statements, closing statements, witness statements, summaries of facts, rebuttals, questions for direct and cross examination etc. It was a very long and nail biting week but we managed to stay on top of things. On top of that we had sometimes up to three meetings a week and constant correspondence via social media just to ensure that we were on track.

On the day of the mock trial we went in well prepared. I was to give out the opening statement which I had written and answer all the questions in direct and cross examination. My opening speech was spoken out without much error and I was positively beaming on the inside because we had made a solid start. I had also suggest that we trip the other team up by making our expert witness a child psychologist so that she could comment on Pat Roman’s behavioral tendencies to create mischief. Any good lawyer is a good story teller after all 😛

The direct examination went quite well except a member of the other team kept interrupting at every instance saying “the question is irrelevant to the case your honor!” every time I opened my mouth to answer which was rather infuriating but the cross examination was where I redeemed myself.

We had known full well that the angle they would use to win the case would be to talk about an infringement of privacy but we made it so that we placed special emphasis on certain clauses of the amendment in focus and after that it was really just a matter of re-iterating facts. The rest of our trial went off in very intense rounds of questioning, I didn’t quite expect that much passion from an online mock trial but it was clear that everyone including myself was very highly invested and much thanks to Iqbal our resident cross-examiner he asked questions from the plaintiffs that had them squirming in their seats. After a good 20 minutes of deliberation our judges felt they were ready to give out our verdict.

I had been excitedly talking to my teammates on the chat reminding them of how proud I was of all our hard work regardless of the verdict since at that point in time I genuinely did not know what the decision would be and then, much to the defense team’s delight Nisha announced that although their personal views resided with the plaintiff’s argument we made such a compelling case that we won! All of us were elated and knowing that we had not only managed to win but sway the personal beliefs of the judges felt incredible. Having gone up against some seriously intense opposition and still winning out made it all the more worth it :))

In hindsight, Harvard’s Future Lawyers Program was one of my proudest achievements and most exiting endeavors. I had not only been accepted into an exclusive group but also lead my team to a solid victory as well alongside Nubar! This was an incredible once in a lifetime opportunity that I will certainly remember for the years to come.

An extract from the 57 page case reading we had to each do and take notes on! ^

^ My certificate of participation

^ Our program course book

In Conversation with Lauren Donnellan 

Another pleasant surprise I had this summer was when Learn With Leaders (the platform I used to find my law course) extended an invite to an invite only conversation with Laurel Donnellan about career paths. By this time after my participation in the pre-law academy I had made up my mind that I would want to choose a law related career path perhaps in diplomacy but I wanted to see if it was the right fit for me, not to mention that Laurel is a contributor at Forbes.com where she writes about Compassionate Leadership and focuses on leadership and falling in love with careers through kindness and purpose. This is naturally a major achievement and her resume spoke for itself when looking at all the incredible entrepreneurs she interviewed and the people she inspired. In this time we spoke in small groups about what makes someone passionate about a job and how being passionate towards it can benefit your lifestyle, health and happiness in the long run.

^ Donnellan’s Forbes Profile

^ Certificate of Participation

The Margin + OSC Girls RISE

The Margin, Ivy Girls Lead, Girls RISE and Harvard Future Lawyers Programme

Two endeavors that I have recently taken up this semester are becoming a member of  two new clubs which were formed in the OSC community as a form of outreach towards younger girls in school and the Margin as an established a method of educating the student and teacher body on the treatment of marginalized communities.

The Margin is the first group I joined, in the group, members meet up once each week to explore the misconceptions regarding different different communities of people around the world, we discuss issues ranging from racial inequality to homophobia while we educate ourselves and things such as disabilities in order to reduce the stigma that is felt within any environment in which a member of the student body may encounter. So far, we have met up over 5 times having accomplished setting up a website and earned ourselves a section on the daily bulletin. I even got to take the initiative to create our first ever daily bulletin post about the Afro-Sri Lankans of Puttalam, a forgotten community that have gradually lost their ties to their African roots after integration into Sri Lankan life post colonization after being brought in as slave workers. I chose to submit this post as a part of our Black History Month initiative. This required a fair share of creativity as I had to learn how to use E-maze in order to make my post and learn how to navigate it. Regardless, since, I have contributed to adding to our timeline, attended multiple ted talks, and had valuable discussions with my peers about the prevention of exclusion and the importance of educating oneself on these matters. Needless to say, each of these discussions have been extremely insightful and I am honored to be a part of a group that is capable of contributing so much to the others.

Link to my 1st post: https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fvenngage.net%2Fps%2FanWcHV5w5sk%2Fsri-lankan-colonial-slavery&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGvlVtiCbFtE-vNBeu471Mrq0DMzQ

The second group which I recently became a member of is the Girls RISE project, which I may have mentioned in one of my earlier blogposts concerning the IVY GIRLS lead. Admittedly, at the time the project was only an idea, and we were only capable of making it a reality this semester. When joining, I agreed to take on the role of a mentor and although we haven’t gotten to the mentorship stage of the project just yet, we have had the honor of being able to bring in three very accomplished guest speakers who were undoubtedly awe inducing to anyone in attendance. The first, being Tiffany Carothers from Girls Make Waves,  Jayanti Kuru-Utumpala, the first Sri Lankan to climb Mount-Everest and our most recent guest, philanthropist Maggie Doyne who who holds a Forbes Award for Excellence in Education among many other renowned accolades including CNN’s hero of the year. Each week I have taken notes on the different stories shared by the guest speaker and am sharing them for later use for when it is my turn to share my wisdom with the girls I will be mentoring, so far, however, the initiative has been amazing and the opportunities granted to us in the process is something I’m eternally grateful for, especially considering that women’s rights is something I have wanted to advocate for since being a little girl, and I am honored that  I get to lead by example for the younger students now.

Additionally, I stepped a little out of my comfort zone last week to make a speech during our school assembly, reminding the OSC student body about the work that we have done in the past year and the work that we hope to accomplish in the coming years especially in relation to Girls RISE which happens to be one of the newer initiatives in school. I was a little nervous when Ms. Fleming approached me, but I took it in stride and wrote and delivered the speech the best I could.

Here is a small extract from my announcement:

“Hi, I’m Devanga Silva from DP1 and I am going to be talking to you about a program which several students from OSC took part in over the last few months. IVY Girls Lead was a program that took place from December through March where 25 girls were selected from around Sri Lanka to participate in an intensive 10 day virtual programme and a 3 month service project we had to create ourselves which consisted of multiple opportunities to develop our leadership skills as young women in society. As members of the Ivy Lead, we were able to take part in group discussions, talent-analysis activities and even got the honor of participating in presentations with a powerful panel of female industry leaders that helped us cultivate stronger leadership and business skills while learning more about our interpersonal relationships as well. And we were even featured in a Sunday Times news article. Because of the success of IVY Girls Lead, we decided to create a similar program at OSC which I will be handing over to Miku to tell us more about.”

Lastly, but Certainly not least, my work in these projects, IVY GIRLS, the Margin and girls RISE gave me the boost of confidence to apply for a summer course with Harvard Student Agencies and Learn With Leaders, in an exclusive program which takes in 10 candidates from around the world for a 2 week course on law. Initially when signing up I wasn’t very sure of my chances of making it in, especially considering that the only ways in which they assess your application is through a survey and an interview. Needless to say when time came for met to answer my interview questions (which I wasn’t informed about in the least before hand) I was able to relevantly piece together information and depict my concern for social injustices in a way that had my acceptance letter in my email the very next day! Naturally  I am elated and even proud of myself for building this much confidence within the past few months and I am grateful to school for providing me with these amazing opportunities to exercise what I am passionate about. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I can’t wait to see what  I learn from it (which will also be very valuable to my further education) but that’s an update for another time! I can’t wait to revisit my experience when I return to DP2.

 

Écrire des lettres aux personnes âgées

Writing letters to the elderly – French Service Project 2021

As student in French B this year, I was told at the start of DP1 that I would be required to cover are all three areas of CAS in 3 posts by the end of my 2 year DP journey. Luckily for myself, I thought ahead of time and have managed to complete 2 of the 3 tasks. I successfully completed my first task when I made my own rendition of the Swiss desert, bonhommes last Christmas and I have just now done my part in my French service project.

For this year, myself and a few of my classmates, chose to write letters to the residents of an elders home who have had a hard time with COVID being unable to see their families and were in need of a little bit of cheering up :)) By keeping that intention in mined, I set out with the goal of writing my letter (shown below) to put a smile on their faces and to assure them that everything would be just fine during COVID and that the tough times will pass. My letter began with me introducing myself, my name, my age, my home and my hobbies etc. after which, I went on to talk about my own experience in quarantine and how it is affecting my life and its shortcomings, while I also assured my pen pal about how it it possibly the only way for things to go back to normal. I talked about how it has given me the time to explore things such as hobbies that I would usually not participate in leisurely in the absence of COVID, namely hobbies of mine such as playing music, reading and playing with my dogs which I haven’t had the time to engage in due to school. And at last, I said that  I hoped they were doing well and concluded with an inspirational quote by a man named Robert Choquette who said something the lines of, “At the heart of uncertainty, there will always be hope, no matter how weak it is.” and included 2 pictures of my dogs because let’s be there’s no bigger serotonin boost than puppies out there.

En français: 

Cette année, pour mon projet de service CAS, j’ai choisi d’écrire une lettre aux personnes âgées dans une maison pour personnes âgées en France. J’ai choisi de le faire parce que je savais que COVID doit être plus difficile pour eux que pour moi, car la plupart du temps, ils ne pourront pas voir les membres de leur famille, alors je voulais les rendre heureux et pleins d’espoir et leur rappeler que tout allait bien se passer.

Alors je leur ai écrit cette lettre:

 

Hikes and Football in Hanthana

From the View to the Leeches and Everything in Between

Around a month ago on April the 15th, I got the privilege of being able to travel with my family and a few friends to a region in Sri Lanka called named Hanthana (which by the way, for any film buffs out there, is where Indiana Jones the Temple of Doom was filmed!)

We set out on a rather long journey of about 5 hours (which arguably felt longer due to the migraine inducing effects of holiday traffic) from Colombo to the hillside where our villa resided. It was rather rainy by the time we got there so we immediately assumed the worst and thought we wouldn’t be allowed to go on our much awaited hike the next day. However, much to our excitement the staff at the villa said it wouldn’t be a problem.

The next morning we woke up at around 6 am and put on our gear, which for me was lacking an element because I had forgotten to pack my leech socks (yikes) and ate a very light breakfast of about 2 scones and left on our way. This was going to be the first proper hike that I had ever been on, given that the one that I talked about in my earlier post about in Hatton didn’t technically count because there wasn’t much of an ascent and since it was on practically paved ground.

As we moved towards the starting point I made sure to stick next to the guide all the way up at the front because the last thing I wanted was to be behind around 10 kids and 5 adults trying to slowly amble their way up a mountain and also… because we had a dog climbing Hanthana’s third peak with us, and no, I am not exaggerating when I say he really climbed to the very top of the mountain with unbelievable ease – Bantu the dog was always 5 steps ahead of everyone else.

It was rather tricky from the get go, in fact it was a lot steeper than we expected it to be and the footpath, well… there wasn’t one, which meant that it was a lot of loose rocks, barely there hand holds and the constant fear of slipping. On top of that our littlest hiker, Evan,  (you’re probably familiar with him being one of kids I coach football with)  was all the way at the front with the guide and he tripped a few too many times in a way that  that took the guide out and nearly took me out as well! However, thankfully, it was pretty uneventful except for a few incidents along the way where someone couldn’t adjust to the altitude and naturally the occasional scream of “LEECH! I HAVE A LEECH!!” which was quickly taken care of.  Much to my relief I never ended up with a single leech on me despite the complete absence of leech socks.

Physically it was quite strenuous because of how far up you had to reach and how much balance you needed to have, but in hindsight I felt as though overcoming the mental hurdles of climbing up a mountain unassisted was a much greater challenge. Needless to say about halfway to the peak we came across a gorgeous plateau which literally looked like something out of a dream. It was covered in reeds and cocooned by pine trees and overlooking the edge we were just above the clouds, it was genuinely a breathtaking sight.

Soon after taking a short break and climbing what felt like the narrowest part of the mountain we reached the peak, but there was another smaller boulder on top which the braver ones of us climbed. It was an amazing view and I was able to snap up some amazing pictures. All the while I was ignoring the dull ache in my legs and the fact that I was panting and out of breath; the view was simply too good to be true, it was one that was worth it all.

The climb down was a whole other fiasco if you will. Evan kept tripping up sending both himself and the guide down on multiple occasions, and somewhere on our way down I stepped on a rock as foothold which came completely loose and I nearly ended up falling off the mountain if not for the guide who grabbed me (he had Spiderman like reflexes there is no there is no other explanation for how he literally jumped about a meter to get me because he was tending to Evan earlier). It was slightly odd considering how unfazed I was I just stood up and kept walking without anything more than a few cuts and scrapes. I am eternally grateful however that nothing happened, but hey, no pain no gain right?

Regardless of all the ups and downs I had a lot of fun, conquered a new experience and overcame a few fears, while also getting some physically intensive activity in which all in all, I would call a successful outing. Even more so, it was a much needed break from the screen to  embrace nature, get some fresh air and enjoy the real world and even got to coach a few more children than I usually would before the lockdown was officially imposed afterwards! Majority of the other kids that came to Hanthana were my brother’s age meant that we had a massive open space to play in and that they were younger and willing to be coached aside for the worry that they were going to get bitten by a leach that is. Once the hard part of convincing them to come outside to play for a small while was done, I taught them correct passing techniques and other technicalities like throw ins, headers and corner kicks and finally ended our session with a small scrimmage and an opportunity for them to score at the goal, helping them boost their shooting confidence and accuracy.  At some point I even decided to play along too which was great because I had been impatiently waiting for an opportunity to get back on the field again for months on end and although it didn’t feel the same as playing competitively with my team, it was a nice game for a good laugh and some rewinding in my downtime, and I am happy to say that the kids came away with more knowledge about the game than what they started with!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Service Post – Hope for Kids

Hope For Kids Update!

While a lot has changed in the past few weeks from completing online school, to going back face to face for  only to be thrust back into a blindsiding state of  lockdown again, my service group, Hope For Kids has never let ourselves see a dull moment. Instead of complaining about the revocation of our visitation rights to the home (because of safety precautions) we have been spending even more hours working at various projects that had us sacrificing a few lunch hours, Thursday afternoons and other weekdays after school hours to make it all come together.

I feel as though our group has honestly accomplished more this year than I would have ever assumed we would have been able to complete given our inconvenient circumstances, although somehow, in a strange way, I have come to realize that it has given me a one off opportunity to step up to the plate  to genuinely make a contribution to the cause we work to support and to do more than physically spend time with the young cancer patients like we used to do when Covid was not an issue. Even more excitingly, it has given me a perfect opportunity to step up into taking some initiative in the leadership area.

Many changes were made starting with some basic housekeeping at first. We decided that it was high time we made some updates to some of our archives. Namely, we needed to change the outdated logo which I took upon myself to redo which required me to employ my creativity. While the original logo was simply just an image of a handprint, I felt that it didn’t really show all that much relevance to our cause which is why, after doing some research I found out that the color for child cancer was gold and then decided to make a simple but striking logo which said OSC Hope for Kids at the top with a gold cancer ribbon on a contrasting black background.

Additionally we decided that we needed to make our outreach greater in terms of raising awareness as a service group. We already had a website but it was rather incomplete in terms of the aesthetic value of it which is why I spent majority of our last session trying to help one of my make the necessary changes to the website via Zoom. Naturally this was a lot harder than expected since it was online and also because the previous creators of our website had graduated, hence making it a work in progress for the upcoming weeks.

We also decided to create an Instagram page in order to keep our school community updated on recent happenings within our group as well as it being the perfect opportunity for us to raise some awareness regarding the severity of the issue that is child cancer. During the first few weeks, while others made certain informational posts, I took the time to create a quiz to educate our followers. Using Instagram formatting I was able to post a small informal multiple choice trivia game on our stories to which a pleasantly surprising number of our followers answered.

While the participation was great, it did go to show that quite a few people within our school community were still not all that aware of the statistics or prevalence of childhood cancer, which is why  I have been in talks with Ms. Tanuja (our service teacher), Saesha (the other service leader) and a family friend of mine who has worked closely with the Cancer Hospital for the past few weeks. More specifically, we collectively came to a conclusion that it was important to make people, especially within our school community,  understand the reality of the situation as well as how we can help patients as well as help prevent it so I took it upon myself to reach out to a doctor to get in touch with us and perhaps give us a small virtual session on what I mentioned earlier. In this way we could also record it and share it via our social media while also coming up with more effective fundraising plans. However, there is still somewhat of a difficulty in getting in touch with a doctor during this time because of the peaking of the Covid-19 cases within the country which has left first responders in a bit of a time crunch which we have to be understanding about.  Nonetheless, she has promised to reach out to us the moment her workload diminishes so that we can carry out our meeting.

This has been a great opportunity for me to step up as a leader and also a great reflective period to upgrade and improve what we already had while also being a convenient time for us to plan ahead for the future and next year and the fundraisers we could be carrying out then!

^My story awareness project for our Instagram followers

^ The new Hope for Kids logo, which I designed earlier this year

^ Previous Hope for Kids logo

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