- Learner Profile
This school year, I involved myself in various service opportunities wherein I was able to develop international-mindedness, new skills, and a deeper understanding for the different issues around me. I participated in both direct and indirect service, ranging from beach cleanups and cookouts, to advocating for mental health and teenage suicide prevention.
For my ‘Service as Action’ project this year, I raised both awareness and funds for Teenage Suicide Prevention for the Samaritans Hong Kong, a suicide prevention organization, through an advocacy project, “Floatees”. I designed and sold graphic tees in order to break down the mental health stigma in Hong Kong. Through this experience, I became more aware of my strength in communication, in both verbal and non-verbal forms. I had to share my project through emails and short speeches with different organizations and individuals, urging me to present information and ideas in a clear, concise manner. Alongside this, I recognized my strength in relaying a message within graphic designs, a form of nonverbal communication. Within my design, I communicated that an individual should be able to receive professional mental health help without any societal barriers. I achieved this by using symbols and metaphors, wherein the boat represented an individual, and the waves represented the hardships one may face in life. Through the slogan, ‘Every boat needs a lifesaver,’ I communicate that sometimes people need help in life, and that should not be frowned upon.
Although, I still recognize some areas for growth. I learned that I need to develop my time management skills further, as I underestimated how long the creative process would take as well as the possibility of different obstacles arising. This was my first time producing a product and properly releasing it, therefore, I was not so aware of how much time to allocate each task. As a result of this, I had to make constant changes to my action plan to ensure that my dates remained realistic and attainable. However, this experience gave me the opportunity to improve upon these organizational skills and my ability to think more logically.
For my ‘Service as Action’ project, I created a social media page on Instagram to advocate for the cause, as well as promote the shirts. On this page, I directed my followers where they could purchase the shirt and also provided information on where they could get help. After a couple days of promoting, a few different teens had reached out to me not only to thank me for creating my project, but also to ask for advice on their problems. At first, I felt intimidated and afraid about providing my input on their issues since I was not expecting these responses and did not want to provide advice that was incorrect. However, I realized that they wanted the comfort in talking with a stranger their age, as we would be able to relate with each others experiences more. By undertaking this challenge, I developed empathy skills when taking the time to listen to their issues and develop well-thought out responses to help them in the best way I could.
My ‘Service as Action’ project called for the creation of promotional content and advertisements as I needed to market my product to my target audience to raise funds for the Samaritans. Therefore, I organized several photoshoots with models I had recruited from my grade to model the shirts. Upon organizing my first photoshoot at the end of October 2018, I experienced more difficulty as I was faced with various obstacles, which included the shirt delivery being delayed and a typhoon. However, I persevered through this and ensured that I remained in close contact with my models, and kept them regularly updated on the plan. In the end, after changing both shooting dates and locations, I managed to organize a successful photoshoot wherein I filmed my advertisement and took photos for social media posts and posters.
On September 15, 2018, I volunteered with the organization, the Story of Stuff, in a beach cleanup in Hong Kong’s Shek’O beach. We began the cleanup at 9 am in the morning, and finished around 3 pm, being under the harsh sun and lifting heavy bags of trash for most of the day. Although the intense heat was quite discouraging, I persevered and continued to help pick up trash and record data to be submitted to the Hong Kong government. Regardless of my discomfort, I felt motivated by both my peers and the desire in bettering the environment and ensured that I performed my responsibilities to the best of my ability.
On March 16 of this year, I volunteered with the school’s ‘Cooking for a Cause’ club in visiting the Centre for Refugees Hong Kong to cook and serve meals for refugees. In order to cook the food in an organized and timely fashion, I had to work collaboratively with my fellow schoolmates and advisors in the centre. As a great quantity of food needed to be served, we distributed the different responsibilities into smaller groups. Within my group, we ensured that we remained on-task and focused on getting our job done so that the food may be served on time. Although I did not really know my fellow team members that well, we still were able to enjoy each others company and learn to work efficiently with one another.
During my volunteer work at the Centre for Refugees Hong Kong, I was given the opportunity to speak with some of the refugees and hear about their background and stories. Although most of them were not so comfortable speaking English, I was still able to communicate with them using hand gestures and understanding basic words in Chinese. This experience really broadened my perspective as I learnt about the hardships of being a refugee in Hong Kong, which include not being able to purchase a home or apply for a job. I gained a new understanding for a refugee’s situation as I realized how difficult the situation must have been in their country of origin to find their current living in situation in Hong Kong much better. This experience not only allowed for me to grow more respect for these individuals, but also allowed me to feel grateful about my own life and the different opportunities available to me.
During my ‘Service as Action’ project, I had to be mindful when designing shirts for mental health advocacy as I needed to be sure that I would not offend anyone or communicate an unintentional message. I had to ensure that I remained respectful to those suffering from mental health illnesses, as that would be a hurtful message to promote to the impressionable youth. In order to prevent this, I sought peer feedback to determine whether the design was effective, but still appropriate for my target audience. As this project was trying to break down the mental health stigma, I also performed extensive research on how to properly advocate for this topic as I wanted to ensure that I was not provoking any offensive or inappropriate messages. Although I wanted to place seeking help for mental health in a more positive light, I did not want to belittle or form misconceptions about this issue.
How did you become more aware of your own strengths and areas for growth?
This year, I took my first step into advocating for teen suicide prevention in Hong Kong. Going in to the project, I was quite nervous of how I was going to complete the action of designing shirts and creating my brand, as I am not too creative. However, after brainstorming, I become more aware of my strength for thinking of slogans or sayings to build my brand’s message and purpose.
How did you undertake challenges that developed new skills?
I was able to develop this my creativity as I undertook this challenge. I also developed my communication and collaboration skills as I had to share my designs with the t-shirt designer to receive feedback and improvements. In the beginning, I was quite shy and nervous to share my ideas in the fear that it wasn’t good enough, however, I became more confident towards the end in sharing my designs as I began to feel more comfortable with receiving constructive criticism. We were able to then work successfully with each other to produce my first draft of my shirt.
How did you discuss, evaluate, and plan student-initiated activities?
I discussed my ideas with several of my peers and of course the designer. I already began to promote the release of my shirts in August, and already grabbed a few of my friends I am interested in for being involved in upcoming sponsorships to promote my brand further.
How did you persevere in action?
As I was designing, I was finding it quite difficult to create designs that were appropriate for teenagers to wear, while continuing to be fashionable and promote my message of teen suicide prevention. However, after gathering ideas and brainstorming with some of my family members, I was able to overcome this challenge.
How did you work collaboratively with others?
As I said earlier, I collaborated with the t-shirt designer in order to make my first shirt design. Therefore, I had to send him some design ideas while he modified them and put them on a shirt. The t-shirt company I’m working with is owned by my father, so he was able to collaborate with me as well to think of design ideas.
How did you develop international-mindedness through global engagement, multilingualism and intercultural understanding?
In order to ensure that my design is appropriate and suitable for Hong Kong student suicide culture. I researched on the current situation, being some statistics, reasons for suicide, and the stigma associated with mental illnesses. Therefore, knowing this, I decided that the design shouldn’t be too heavy, but instead be seen as something that can be fixed. Through this, I was able to develop my international-mindedness.
How did you consider the ethical implications of your actions?
I also had to keep the Hong Kong culture in mind, specifically, the suicide causes and stigma, to be able to produce shirts that don’t offend the locals. I ensured that this wouldn’t happen through several market surveys, and peer evaluations.
I am very excited to release my first batch of shirts in the beginning of the next school year in August!
I became more aware of my own strengths and areas for growth during my previous school’s field studies trips, as we were required to reflect on our performance each day. One of the most memorable service days was my field studies trips to Telunas, Indonesia, wherein we visited a school to help them build a fence and interact with the many children that went there. I experienced challenges interacting with the students as there was a huge language barrier. Although we weren’t able to understand each other, we still had some fun. With the Global Issues Network club at my previous school, I had organized a walkathon to raise funds for buying a new Iron Giraffe for Water for South Sudan, which is used to dig up new wells. I had to discuss with several teachers, and different students to successfully plan the event. We experienced many challenges when planning, such as the unavailability of the venue, no volunteers available, etc. However, we persevered and found new ways around it. It was very great knowing how we had made a difference for a community in Sudan. We even went above our goal, in terms of money. Therefore, I feel that doing service is a great way to make a difference in the world and be more globally minded.