Attendance: 18

Learning goals: Discuss classroom community: explore how perspectives are shaped by identity and community, discuss how people form ideas and beliefs, how groups influence one’s ideas and beliefs, and begin to gain a visual understanding of how facts vs. opinions are formed.

Activities: Ice breaker game (My name is…) Identity sketch (Who are you?) Dog and Bone, Mirror sketch (Interview each other to gain an understanding of common goals and strengths)

Insights/surprises: Although the first workshop had participants from different ethnic and religious groups, they were all from the Sinhala medium. We’re not sure why there weren’t any Tamil medium students at this workshop, and spoke to the principal to see if we can get them more involved too.

Workshop feedback: Most of the kids are bilingual, so I switched between Tamil and Sinhala. The kids enjoyed themselves so much that when I told them that the next workshop would be on the 21st because of Thai Pongal on the 14th, they asked if they could have the next workshop on Sunday the 15th! Sadly, we can’t do it because there is no teacher able to oversee the workshop that day, but it was encouraging to see how eager they were to come back, without feeling like they were obligated to do it.

Ongoing challenges: Today’s teacher in charge was really helpful, sharing a lot of background information about the kids and their families. When I asked about how Building Bridges can assist the school further with educational materials etc, the teacher confided that many students from Grade 9 upwards are exposed to substance abuse (even bringing them into school) and that kids as young as Grade 5 know the names of different drugs.

This might be because many parents work abroad so when students get home they have to fend for themselves. They also often don’t get good food and proper nutrition. On the other hand, school is in many ways a sanctuary for the kids. They often stay in school after classes are over because their homes are often small, the lanes are cramped, and there’s no space to play – the kids didn’t go home straight away after the BB workshop either, and it was a Saturday. The teachers are looking for counselors or programmes that can help the kids. This not a straightforward subject and it has many underlying factors to consider; we want to help but are not sure how.

7 January 2017: Introductions

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