As part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme students in Grades 11 and 12 are required to initiate a project in Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) that benefits individuals, communities or the environment. Students actively lead the planning and implementation process in collaboration with different stakeholders. In 2017, a group of IB students initiated a CAS project which spanned the globe. Shagun Dhaliwal, Class of 2019 was one of the student writers on the project and shares her insights on this remarkable learning experience.
“A good education is something that most of us take for granted. Going to school was just something I did every day – ingrained into my routine because that was how it had always been. But after being a part of Dignity for Children’s (DCF) 20th Anniversary project it was evident that this isn’t the case for many children in Malaysia. While most of us see education simply as a compulsory part of our lives, the students of DCF saw it as an opportunity. A chance to pursue their dreams and ensure a brighter future.
DCF is an organization that provides education to underprivileged children in Malaysia. Thus, I was particularly drawn to the DCF 20th Anniversary book project because of its local significance in relation to raising awareness of the importance of education, as well as the variety of skills that I would need to employ.
The culmination of this project is a publication that illustrates the stories of a selection of DCF alumni – a small symbol of the lifelong impacts imparted by the foundation. But it wasn’t an easy process. Taking on the role of a journalist, I acquired a wide range of skills such as how to formulate clear questions to ask DCF alumni, correctly quoting individuals, and editing interviews to produce a coherent piece of writing. As the project progressed we often found ourselves hindered by obstacles that prevented us from moving forward. Challenges such as difficulty tracking down alumni and organizing Skype interviews amidst busy schedules and varying time zones had to be overcome and taught me about perseverance.
My last interview with a girl of my age from Burma was perhaps one of the most enlightening. Not only did I learn about the religious persecution of Muslims in Burma that led to the displacement of Burmese Muslims, but I also witnessed the reverence with which this young girl spoke about DCF. Her opportunity to receive an education at DCF prepared her to forge her own path which eventually lead to her resettlement in the US. Hearing firsthand from this girl about how DCF enabled her to achieve her potential was heartwarming and further highlighted the power of education in breaking the cycle of poverty and providing refugees a fresh start in life.
This project taught me a lot in relation to how to interact with new individuals and conduct an interview. I also improved my confidence throughout the interviews, from being slightly timid and reluctant to ask questions of my script in the first interview to being more outgoing and coming up with my own new questions by the time the last interview came along. It certainly made me step out of my comfort zone by making me interact with new individuals and pushing me to acquire new skills related to journalism and advocacy that I was not familiar with before.
Upon the completion of this project I was extremely proud that the hard work we put into the project paid off. Most people know on some level that education is not something to be taken for granted. But, it isn’t until you listen to firsthand accounts and reflections about education that you realize its true importance, which is what made our project especially powerful and effective.”
All proceeds from the sale of “20 Years … 20 Stories of dignity” go to sponsoring students to attend dignity for Children Foundation. To order your copy, please contact Lynette MacDonald at [email protected]. Minimum donation per copy RM100.
ISKL thanks all students for their involvement in the project: Kaylene Chong, Spandana Dash, Margot De Vos, Shagun Dhaliwal, Maya Gan, Frida Haettmark, Savanna Razzaque, Michelle Santoso, and Natasha Tan.