How A Simple Course Of CAS Completely Changed My Life

The IB Diploma Programme is one of the most enriching programmes for the 21st century learners. Below is the reflection of a student on her first year in the IB Diploma Programme at JBCN International School, Parel and the transformational CAS experiences.

CAS at JBCN

When people think about ‘CAS’, they usually imagine a bunch of sweaty teenagers feeding the poor, or cleaning up a beach, struggling to finish a set number of CAS hours. That’s what we thought too. Twenty-five students, who were about to begin the two most crucial years of their lives, walked into school on the first day after summer with no notion of what CAS truly is. We believed we would be involved in sports, maybe help out an NGO once in a while and we would be done before we knew it. We had no idea what CAS really is, how significantly it would contribute to our studies and, most importantly, how it would change us as human beings.

The very first CAS activity we did was all the way back in August. When the tragic floods hit Kerala, leaving thousands of people homeless and broken, we realized there was so much we could do to help those in need. So, we began our first ever CAS project. We initiated a program where all students from grades one to eleven could donate blankets, shoes, clothes, packaged food and so much more that the people in Kerala direly needed. The response was stunning! All of the IBDP students spent each of the last two classes every day for a week inventorying all of the donations received, and segregating them into boxes. We must admit, it was a messy project. It was the first time all 25 of us were working on a project of such magnitude together. It took time for us to fall into rhythm with each other and the last day was the only day where absolutely nothing went wrong.

Soon after the Kerala floods project, we commenced a Didis and Dadas Project. This project was probably one of the most fun activities we have done under CAS. In this CAS activity, we taught our ancillary staff about the IB Diploma Programme and the school’s mission and vision statements. We taught them about what the IBDP is all about, and how the IB is trying to build caring and creative students. We taught them how JBCN taught students to be confident and kind. We taught them so they could play their own part in moulding these students. We taught them that their involvement was pivotal in raising the students to be upstanding citizens of the world. At the very end of the lessons, we asked the Didis and Dadas for their feedback, and their response was wonderfully overwhelming. They appreciated that we took the time and effort to put this together, and they simply loved the idea and the execution of it. In fact, they had so much fun attending our lessons and we had the same in equal measure. It was decided that the activity would be carried out more frequently. We’ve created an entire curriculum to teach them English and basic IT skills, which we are all looking forward to implementing.

The next CAS activity we conducted was a blood and organ donation drive that was hosted by the school. Professionals from Tata Memorial Hospital set up their equipment at our school, while we helped donors fill out forms, assisted the medical experts and struck up conversations with the professionals from Tata Hospital. At that point in time, we all believed this to be the hardest CAS activity. This event required enormous amounts of coordination and each and every student needed to work in sync with the other; otherwise, the whole project would have fallen apart. It was awe-inspiring to see so many young people working incredibly hard to make this event a success.

We even had a Teachers’ Day CAS project where we involved the whole school. It was a day long project with delicious food, dance and so much more. We wanted to thank our teachers for being such great mentors.

The next CAS activity, was a recent one and was definitely one of the most rewarding projects we have undertaken throughout our school lives. We partnered with an NGO called Project Chirag that provides lighting to rural villages in India, and we divided the project into two parts; first we organized a Dandiyaa Dhamaal event at our school to raise money to finance the installation of lights in a village in Dahanu and secondly we visited the village to execute the installation. This project was satisfying as we saw the fruit of our labor come into fulfilment. During the Dandiya Dhamaal, we laughed and smiled and raised money but on the trip we actually saw where our hard earned money had been utilised. Installing the lights wasn’t particularly difficult. All we had to do was tie a box to a post, fix a few bulbs and connect a few wires but the life altering experience was in the way the villagers reacted. Their homes were dark and tiny; some of them were smaller than our bedrooms. They didn’t have much in their houses either. To see their faces light up (both figuratively and literally) when we installed the bulbs and switched them on, was an experience of grand proportions and overwhelming emotions. They were so incredibly grateful in even getting just two bulbs! It made us proud that our efforts had brought immeasurable smiles to these people’s faces. It was simply life-altering to experience these people and their attitude toward life. It made us reflect upon all that we have and take for granted, and we became more grateful as a result.

The latest CAS- related activity we partook in was our CAS trip to a farm in Khopoli. We stayed on the farm for three days and partnered with an organization called Roots. This CAS trip was a marvelous experience for so many amazing reasons. We performed various activities that required a lot of team work. We built rafts, crossed a terrifying Burma Bridge, milked cows and engaged in different rural life activities. It was the most fun we’ve had since the IB began and it really brought our class together in way like never before.

Going back in time, we realize how little we knew about CAS and how it would change our attitudes and understanding of life. Now we do. It seems strange, almost alien, to think people can change in just four months, learn to see the world though a different, more focused sense, but it’s true. If you had seen us during the Kerala floods project and at the bulb installation project, you’d find it hard to believe our transformation from then to now. After working together on so many different projects, all of us have reached a point where we’ve fallen in sync with each other. That’s the point of CAS. After four months, we have learnt that CAS isn’t about completing those hours. No, it is about being the best possible person you could be. It’s about being active, being creative, and being kind. We are grateful to everyone for their support and guidance, and look forward to more invigorating experiences in the future!

Author- Simran Zaveri, DP 1

JBCN International School, Parel

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