Previously, I went on an experience week trip to Myanmar, where we were able to experience the culture and the beautiful historical sites. I was able to witness upfront, the issues of poverty and education, as children could not afford to stay in school till the end of even primary school due to a lack of income or the fact that they could go ahead and help sell things such as postcards instead. Firstly, this really opened up my eyes because kids that I had taught in primary school would also be at local tourist spots such as pagodas selling things on another day. The fact that I could see the disparity upfront so closely, was truly eye-opening as I could see the conflict between school and potential income for the family collide. However, one thing that particularly struck my mind was whether I should help buy their childish drawn postcards with stickmen with a touch of colored crayons in the mix. Yes, they weren’t the best but I would be helping them out by buying it no? This was the moment where I had to make quite the ethical decision in my opinion. The decision to give them a little bit of income in the short term to help them out, or to avoid creating a reliance on an unreliable method of generating income. In the context of Myanmar, it could be a good thing to help them immediately as it is a country with huge amounts of poverty and a rather low literacy rate. In the end, I decided to not buy the postcards, though the kids were let down, I simply could not buy them. I decided to hopefully, in the future move away from these postcard sales, and go towards more sustainable sources of income. Despite the fact that this might not happen, I feel as though ethically, the purchasing of such postcards and creating a reliance on an ineffective source of income would cause more harm than good. Therefore, sometimes the decision may not be right and may ride on a lot of conditions such as going to school and perhaps getting a better education to find a more sustainable source of income. However, both choices had their consequences, to which we have to figure out which one may be better in our opinion.
Recently, I have been involved in a movement set by the Interact Club called FAMINE12. In Hong Kong, the effects of income inequality and poverty are clearly shown in the slums and the poor living conditions in the international megacity. And very much like Amnesty, Interact Club strives to advocate for the poverty that not only goes on globally in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa but also Hong Kong. Therefore, by not consuming any foods or produced drinks aside from water for 12 hours, this allowed for me to better understand just a small portion of what people in poverty go through every day in my community. Thus, further incentivizing myself to go out and help these people and spreading awareness about this issue in my local community. This experience really helped develop an appreciation for the fortunate environment that I was able to grow up in, and helped develop a sense of responsibility towards helping my local community even if it’s just through spreading the word. In addition to this, I was able to explore this even further in my local church. We had sessions where we were meant to just walk along some of the streets of Hong Kong and talk to homeless people on the streets and their struggles. This really opened my eyes to the brutality of life and how big of a problem this is on not just a local scale, but a global scale.
One of the CAS experiences in which I really had to focus on my collaboration skills and recognized the benefits of working collaboratively was during the planning for the Amazing Race for my club Amnesty. During the day that the event was being executed, we had to separate our roles into a supervisor for different teams who would be moving along the school and someone who would coordinate the overall movement of everything. Myself and another club member were left with the integral role in leading the whole activity, and to do this we were constantly communicating about who also knew the activities that the contestants would play, or what to say before a certain activity. In essence, collaboration was the key to making this a successful event. I had to communicate when the group would arrive at a certain station as well as help out my partner in case he didn’t know how the game worked and this of course went both ways as he also helped me. During the process, I realized how important it was to constantly communicate and collaborate with each other. Because since we were all in different locations, to know what each of us was doing at all times was imperative in trying to secure the success of our event. To me, this demonstrated how important and vital collaboration is, although in a much more heightened sense since all of us were in different locations, this allowed me to realize how successful activities or projects are done and a large portion of it is through active communication and collaboration. Despite some troubles along the way in the midst of collaborating upon where should we set up different activities, the fact that we were solving through our problems as a group through giving suggestions and listening to what others had to say really allowed us to find the best locations to best suit what we wanted to convey such as simulating water buckets with textbooks in the forum.
In not just my CAS project of advocating for human rights through Amnesty, this aspect of collaboration is greatly important as it establishes new ideas that everybody can have access to and discuss upon. The way a CAS project like Amnesty’s events would be so successful is that if we get the best idea possible and enact on it, which wouldn’t be possible without such discussion and collaboration. Therefore, through the amazing race, I truly believe that the problems that are thought of in collaboration, even if they are setbacks, are ultimately going to benefit oneself in the long run.
An example of going through the different CAS stages would be my involvement in the production of Amnesty’s the Gratitude Project. Building upon the club’s pre-existing events such as the Elderly Home visit, we realized that our previous events were much more focused on the Upper school and excluding the Lower school. Therefore to address this issue, we decided to create a new event, called the Gratitude project as one thing we focused on a lot as a club is being thankful for the efforts of domestic helpers in Hong Kong, as they are quite prevalent within students’ families. We decided to target the Lower school, as setting a foundation early for being thankful, as we had seen a surge in abuse cases of domestic helpers in Hong Kong due to immoral actions by families. We suggested the activity of making cards of whoever you felt thankful to on a daily basis but never had the chance to say so, whether it was your domestic helper, security guard, or even teacher. We decided that this was a good activity to help solidify this idea of gratitude and being thankful.
In terms of preparation, we had to send out emails to Lower school teachers, asking if they wanted to be involved in this project and what times people from the club would go in and speak about the project and enact the activity. We prepared time slot allocations, who would go, the paper and overall rundown of what we should say to the classes and how to say it. There was a bit of struggle on how to convey the message of gratitude to much younger students such as people below grade 1. However, we overcame this by modifying our rundown to be a lot more simpler in speech and ideas. Essentially using everyday concepts such as saying thank you as a basis as to what they were going to do, such as writing a note to people who they were thankful to. My role was one of the speakers that would address this topic of gratitude to much younger students, therefore the responsibility that I upheld was trying to make everything a lot more understandable for the small children, to which I suggested making ideas that we were trying to convey a bit broader. As opposed to being extremely specific to the point where they wouldn’t get what exactly we were trying to make them understand.
On the days that I would have to present, a lot of things went quite smoothly except for a few exceptions of younger students not exactly understanding what was it they had to do. To which I would have to go through it 1 on 1 where I would ask questions like, “when do you say thank you?”, “do you say it a lot?”, “who do you mostly say it to”.etc Overall, it went really well as the younger kids were extremely excited about making cards for either their security guards, helpers or parents at home. Although, what did happen was that older grades, although they understood what was happening, they weren’t as into it as we would hope they would be. To which we did not exactly have a solution, although we did try our best in being more enthusiastic to get students to be more excited.
Through this experience, I realized that although we focused a lot on the little ones moreso than the older students as we didn’t think getting the message across would be that much of a problem for them. That there were different things that we had to focus upon, such as making it interesting enough for the older grades as opposed to the smaller kids to which we had to make things more undersandable. Therefore, as an executive member of Amnesty, I think that as a focus for our second time of conducting the gratitude project we should focus on two aspects; understandability, as well as level of interest.
Currently, as an Amnesty member, I try to consider the many things to we have to keep in mind of to make our event successful. As we are now planning the event for ‘the Vow of Silence’ to advocate for people without a voice, I try to mention how we can truly make this event impactful. Before, we used to hold the event without any debrief or introduction session. However, in order to get the message across more effectively, I believe that having a few minutes explaining the cause and gathering people’s opinions on what happened will be effective in getting across the goal of our event.
Looking at challenges, I would say that a challenge that has by far been the most influential has been teaching younger students Karate. As I got older and older in my class, my teacher began to delegate me certain tasks with the younger ones as I was much more experienced and he could not handle the vast amounts of students himself at times. With this now in my hands, I did not know how to approach this as I did not have the reputability of my teacher, I couldn’t just tell the students to do this particular move or sequence because everyone would just fool around as I was just a student like them. After multiple attempts at trying to get the students to listen, I realized that this would require a much different method of teaching than my teacher; that I couldn’t use my teacher’s style of teaching of easily ordering what to do. Rather, I learned to be much more interactive in both speech and action in the presence of much younger students from ages 7-10. I would have to continuously compliment and reward what they did, as well as constantly demonstrate what they needed to do step by step and add a lot more enthusiasm that I would normally have to make it more exciting. Despite usually talking and helping out students that were more close to my age, this new experience allowed me to learn how to interact with people who do not have a lot of experience compared to me and just younger people in general when teaching.
This has actually transferred over to my actions in school as well. Most recently, in the club that I am involved in, Amnesty, we have had to interact with a lot more Lower School students as teachers want them to learn more about human rights and what they can do in their community. I would say teaching kids is much more different than doing a presentation in a room filled with seniors, therefore allowing me to pull out some of the things I learned from teaching younger kids in karate, a rather serious sport. In addition, from matters ranging from advocating for human rights, this experience in teaching also helped me in helping with my friends with different subjects. In particularly for chemistry, as I now take a lot more step by step approach to my friends that don’t understand the content as well rather than going through it in the way I know. But rather, going through the content in a much more understandable way and doing it a lot more step by step to ensure understandability, which has proven to be a lot more effective.
As an individual, one of my strengths is my commitment to my extracurriculars which usually stretch a long period of time, however, my weakness would be not acting upon certain opinions that I may have on certain topics on my community. A demonstration of my commitments would be my practice of the martial art, Karate, as this has extended from my primary school years of school to my current adventures through my last year of high school. Though throughout my two last years of high school have been tough and stressful, I still manage to find time to practice Karate by myself if not at formal practices with my teacher as the need to continuously train is something I like to enforce to allow this sport to truly become practical and a part of myself. Overall, my commitment to this sport has allowed me to realize the benefits of committing a certain activity for a long period of time. Not only has it allowed me to explore the different aspects of an activity, but the constant refinement of my skills allows for an activity or sport to truly resonate with myself in daily life and become practical on a day to day basis. This, to which, is something that I favor quite a bit as I believe practicality is one of the most important things when choosing a new skill to develop. However, when it comes to acting upon certain beliefs that I may hold. I still am rather shy in expressing my beliefs about the issues around me. For example, I may believe strongly in the fight against poverty in Hong Kong but I may be too overwhelmed by the people who are already fighting for it and therefore avoid it. As I wanted to improve upon this skill, I began to understand that the idea of opening up to new experiences of growth is something that I believe is quite valuable to me. Therefore, when an opportunity arose for advocating about the effects of poverty. I attempted to act on my beliefs and try to grow not only from thoughts but from taking action. Most recently, I joined in the event of Interact club’s FAMINE12, where there was an advocation for the mass amounts of poverty that is going on in the world as well as my local community.
I try to enact this same mentality of growing through taking action not only in my school community but outside as well. As for my own interests, since I am a Christian, I tried to reach out to my community through the participation in a church camp during the summer. Where deeper studies on the idea of faith occurred as this was of particular interest to me at the time. However, with my growing number of interests, I also tried to follow my interests in joining a school team. For myself, this was the dragon boating club, where I was brought along to share a great experience of working together as a team and achieving something greater that was only achievable by working as a unified front.
Overall, I do have my strengths of being capable of extreme devotion to certain activities. And the benefits of doing so have taught me to appreciate the experiences of such devotion. However, I feel that my recent confidence in pursuing different things of my interest has developed a curiosity that is quite necessary when living in such a diverse community including both school and my local community. Despite how my commitment to karate and my confidence in standing for ideas that I believe in are on many different levels. This is something that I’m currently focusing on right now and desire to improve in order to become an individual who is much more diverse.
Investigation and Preparation:
The CAS Project that I will be engaged in will be as an exec for Amnesty CDNIS with the event of The Amazing Race. We first looked back on previous experiences with the event and worked up some feedback on the different aspects of the event such as venue size, different responses to activities. A few challenges were trying to get people engaged with the event and wanting to participate, causing for ideas to be a mixture of both fun and information. With these, we were able to figure out the general scheme of things, where different events were, the primary objective (finishing the race with the fastest time), and how to really get people to understand the extent to which human rights are still being violated in not only other countries, but our own as well. Through example such as Hong Kong, and the Middle East, we were able to figure out how to connect to our participants in not only a broad idea of current events, but with a specific focus in our local community.
With regards to planning out the event, on May 12, we plan to hold the event on 3 floors, and have a total of around 4 stations. With themes revolving around raising awareness about the right to rest and leisure, the right to education, and human trafficking/physical impairment, activities will be held around the 3 floors, raising awareness through games, quizzes, scavenger hunts.etc
After the event, since the club is still running until the end of the school year. The exec team and I will be going over the event and thinking about different things we could’ve done. Since we haven’t actually begun the event just yet, in the future, we’ll just be gathering feedback as a group, whether we gathered volunteers early enough, if the activities were fun enough.etc Overall, we’re going to use the time between after the event and our next event next year to improve on organization and overall planning and ideas.
Demonstration & Celebration: With an successful event comes celebration, but really the celebration that we would be having is through raising awareness about the various human rights that are being violating. Through this, I was able to gain a better understanding on the general knowledge of the public and what to focus on myself and what to help others to focus on.
‘Historical facts are like fish swimming about in a vast and inaccessible ocean; and what the historian catches will depend partly on chance, but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what tackle he chooses to use – these two factors being, of course, determined by the kind of fish he wants to catch.’ – E. H. Carr, historian, 1961
I feel that this quote is talking about how history is never something that is set in stone, but rather is up into interpretation and is also determined through initial biases, prior knowledge and lens one chooses to uphold while exploring history. A question that occurred to me was whether or not historians should even be looking for a certain type of fish, compared to just simply looking for a fish in general, as this shows some type of bias towards the situation and can skew the tracking of history. I would say that I agree with this statement because, take for an example a historian trying to understand the beginnings of WWII. If he were someone from Germany at the time, he may have the initial bias of saying the war started because of righteousness as well as wanting to see it as that way but whether it is right or not, is hard to judge as it could be looked at both ways as this quote suggests. However, this could be argued against to be wrong because history shouldn’t be up to interpretation but be sustained by facts to end at one final conclusion instead of several. Therefore history isn’t exactly like fish swimming in a vast ocean, but rather only having one fish in a vast ocean, simply being hard to find due to it’s hidden nature and inability to confirm whether such is right or not.
The global issue that I have engaged with is the issue poverty, wealth and power globalization, more specifically, forms of inequality/disparity: income, consumption, access to necessities of life. I have engaged with this global issue through my CAS week experience in Myanmar, where I experienced teaching little kids English in a much more deprived environment. As well as becoming a member of Amnesty CDNIS, where the advocation of human rights is our primary goal. I decided to become a member of Amnesty CDNIS because of what I witnessed in Myanmar as I saw a large disparity between not only education, but wealth and food and the opportunities children could have unlike myself. Therefore by joining this club, I was able to further increase awareness of these issues in our community.
Initially, before going to Myanmar, we had investigated upon different topics in Myanmar such as the geography, economy, culture.etc I was tasked with looking into the economy of Myanmar and it was there were I first encountered the subject of the disparity of wealth, education and necessities compared to the outside world. Then we started planning on how to engage with this topic and how to really understand the situation that was happening within Myanmar, and this was through the act of teaching young kids English. We then created a plan for the span of a few days on what to specifically teach and how to teach kids. What I realized was how simple some of the topics were that we were teaching, even teaching second or fourth grade, the topics were relatively simple and it was also at this point where I was able to identify the extent to which this issue of ‘poverty’ and wealth took place in. After this, we finally took the trip to Myanmar, Yangon to begin teaching these kids who we didn’t know at all and couldn’t communicate with. It was at this point where I could fully engage with this global issue and really understand what this inequality and disparity looked like between the upper ends of Myanmar society and the lower ends, to the point where children need to work right after school in different tourist attractions. After this trip, the experiences I had really resonated with me and I began to think of what I could specifically do to help out these kids whom I’ve shared a bond with in my own way. This was through becoming a member of Amnesty and being able to advocate for human rights for everybody as from what I saw from not only the children I taught but also from families and children on the streets. Everyone shouldn’t have to be on the extreme ends of inequality within their own society. Overall, from several projects that I have been apart of with Amnesty such as the most recent Gratitude Project, I hope to continue spreading awareness of this subject of inequality in hopes that it helps the people who I have met before.