Project Heal You, Heal Us officially kickstarted in July 2020. This was back when the whole country was in lockdown and to be honest none of us were high-spirited or our normal selves at that time. The POC was selected and most of us had no idea what it was all about. Since we went into lockdown at the very beginning of the first semester, most of the faces in the POC were new to us as well. So getting this kind of serious-sounding project done efficiently seemed like a real challenge at the beginning.
The goal of this project was to address the problems regarding physical, mental, behavioral, and attitudinal changes our friends and families were going through because of the pandemic. Of course, none of us were qualified for that job, so the plan was to get individuals who were, and to try to give solutions to any problems in various aspects through interaction with these individuals. Zoom was to be our platform and the idea of conducting interactive sessions where our peers ask questions without holding anything back was only a fantasy, as any of us who have attended online lectures very well knew by then. So we went for surveys instead; easy, anonymous. Three separate surveys for mental health and wellbeing, physical fitness and wellbeing, behavioral and attitudinal changes were conducted. We got questions and queries, we were able to summarize our results, we were able to creatively organize the rest of the project.
We had a couple of well-known experts for each field in mind. We were able to contact them and they were very humble and were as excited and enthusiastic as we were to help those who are struggling in these difficult times, as much as they could. They joined hands with us for the rest of the project very happily.
The personality that joined with us for the session on mental health and wellbeing was Mrs. Rasini Bandara. She is a Counseling Psychologist for Mind Heals Platform, a public speaker, and a personality development coach. I remember the first call we took with Mrs. Rasini. Even that call was highly therapeutic for all of us in the call. She got to know each and every one of us and we got to know her in that long but lovely phone conversation. We knew we have chosen just the right person to address us and that she would have no trouble holding everyone’s attention for two hours or even more.
We had a great PR campaign for her session and everything was ready, scripts, place, time slots, participation, all sorted out when something unfortunate happened. POWER CUT. The Day Before The Session. Not just any power cut, but a bizarre one. Different areas got power cuts at different times and for most of us, it lasted for a couple of hours at the least. Our session was supposed to be on Zoom. Mrs. Rasini was going to be at a different place than us; so needless to say this got us panicking, and to make things worse, the Government confirmed that the same thing ‘might’ happen in the following days. (Panicking intensifies.)
The panicking part is what happened in my mind though, I remember thinking now we’d have to postpone this to a day that we can make sure no power cuts are there but then there was our Damindri akki and Rukshala akki telling us all the things we should be prepared for in case something goes wrong and acting like it’s no big deal. They were so calm and they handled everything as if they’ve got generators stationed everywhere just in case. It was truly inspiring how they handled it. That was one of the first things I learned from Rotaract, that you never give up on anything that you have worked hard for, until the last moment. Even in that last moment, you give all you could to make it happen.
With all that hope, we got together on the 18th of August. There was a lot of talk about laptops, wires, extension cords, sockets, and others I have no clue about up to this day. Sasanka aiya from FOS media came in like a savior and got everything arranged, and we were all set for our first session. Mrs. Rasini had the same concerns as us about the power cut but all we could do was pray that nothing goes wrong throughout our session. It was really funny when one of us got stuck due to connection issues and the other would panic thinking that they got the power cut and it showed in our expressions. But thankfully our prayers were answered. No power cut for both sides and everything went as smoothly as we could’ve hoped for. Mrs. Rasini addressed a lot of issues that our peers had regarding mental health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic and in general life as well. She shared her life experiences, some heartbreaking ones, and how she got back up whenever life tried to drag her down. We all learned so much from her. All the feedback was amazing which lead us to believe that the session was indeed a success.
One down, two to go. Our next two sessions were scheduled back to back. For the session on physical fitness and wellbeing, we contacted Ms. Sarani Thilakaratne. She is a fitness personality, social media influencer, and fitness consultant. One thing she mentioned in our first phone call with her was that she was really impressed with our survey and the amount of detail in it, as she mentions in one of her other interviews on TV as well.
We also contacted Dr. Priyani Karunaratne, who is the Medical Officer of Maternal and Child Health Kalutara district. We figured she was the best person to talk to us about the behavioral and attitudinal changes during the pandemic and how we should deal with them in the best way possible. Her calm and confident personality gave us further reassurance about that fact.
On the 22nd of August we first had the session on physical fitness and wellbeing with Ms. Sarani.
We talked about her journey as a social influencer and how we should adapt to the changes during the Covid-19 pandemic and use the extra time to get fitter and healthier during the lockdown. I’m sure our audience got all their questions answered and they left the session feeling motivated to do better and be better physically.
Our second session for that day with Dr. Priyani was also an immense success. We got to know about all the bad habits we have been following since the lockdown when it comes to sleep, dietary habits, and hygiene, and she methodically explained why we should avoid those practices and what type of practices we should follow instead. The take-back of that session was also very huge for all of us.
All three sessions went as well as we could’ve hoped for and our utmost gratitude goes out to Mrs. Rasini Bandara, Ms. Sarani Thilakaratne, and Dr. Priyani Karunaratne for their contribution to making our lives a bit better in these challenging times.
By Rtr. Hiruni De Silva