Our globe got soaked in the currents of a disruptive pandemic that defined an era and became such ill that the pressure shocked our souls out from our bodies and mangled our minds, forcing us to search for nothing but our very own selves, in the middle of all these chaos. Thus, adding colors to the World Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, which is set as the first week of October every year, we thought to walk this journey to the healing waters together, to Escape the storms together, because together is how we walk far-a-ways, and the healing waters were far far-a-way like never before. Taking a timely approach, sprinkling drops of ebullience, Rotaract Club of Faculty of Science, University of Colombo said “hey” to Escape, a runaway of togetherness, to a blissful mind.
The story blossomed from short and sweet zoom gatherings, we were sound on what the community needed most, because like mom-made meals that come moreish in perfect timing, even service has its best way, and to our loved ones, we wanted to provide the best. And that’s how our delivery got its fun-loving touch, and it was easy, because joy comes natural to the purest, and our team was blessed with the purest souls of all.
So, we started from Sena, the contemporary TikTok sensation, and while bestowing the community with subtle hints on mental wellbeing, especially in the time of the pandemic, we slowly marched on to the phase of our dreams – the ultimate game night. Every one of our team had their own perfect piece of the sketch of what it should be and eventually just like in a jigsaw, our sketches perfectly fit with each other’s, once again proving we were all fate picked for this task. Amidst the occasional chitchats and laughter, we were all busy bringing our dream to life, working 24/7 for it.
Through a ground-breaking PR campaign, we crossed the bridge from our dream to our reality, and the responses made the reality better than the dream. We were getting “I’m in” from all over, and we had to close the registrations right after the opening, due to the overwhelming crowd, but we made sure we take in all that’s possible to the city we know, MINDHEIST’21, and yes, that’s how we called it, what we rooted for, what we dreamt for, and what we worked for, our game night.
Burning the midnight oil, we were setting up to a remembering night, that bundled up two stages, first round: the main event that comprised of 5 super-fun games, and second-round: the finale, the Among us round.
And boom! The day came in magical haste. Even the air we breathed felt excited. The night was something even that guy who forgets everything in every friend group will not forget. Everybody was putting their cheerful attitudes out, and joy was in the air, slowly claiming those cheerful souls we once were, back to ourselves. And making us nostalgic to the happy excited us that we used to be, before the covid diaries and opening our minds to contemplate “maybe even the pandemic cannot stop us from being who we truly are, the joyful spirits, and why not try then?”, exactly fulfilling the goal of our first phase. Now, this is where we needed professional backup, to make Escape a healing point of our pandemic diaries. And that’s how we moved on to the next phase.
Rekindling the sparks within the souls that gathered around us after the Heist of the Minds, phase 2 of ESCAPE was brought on stage on the following Saturday, the 23rd of October.
Having completed the relaxing and joyous part of the voyage, phase 2 was planned with the intention of making our crowd aware of the subject beyond the typical beliefs and misbeliefs. The urge to produce something innovative was unavoidably rising within us. Mental health awareness programs are dime a dozen in today’s world. Still, whether they really make people aware remains a doubt. This tempted us all to think and rethink how to make our efforts appealing to the hearts. Since almost all the officials of ESCAPE were night owls who barely keep their eyes open in the daytime, better suggestions from all came to light when the surroundings were dark. Giggles that turned into late-night peals of laughter made things easier and interesting by all means.
Addressing common topics which are frequently spelled in the society in an uncommon way was upstream rowing of the boat. Struggling with the limited time for the planning part was indeed the biggest challenge for the team members. Hope dooms made it barely possible to keep our heads up. Still, when all obstacles came firing towards us, the unity and teamwork within the group and the undying support from our seniors made itself a protecting shield and became the brute force behind us all. Happily, we managed to race against the clock amidst all worries and academics of the second semester piling up.
After a series of night’s zoom gatherings, we all decided to break new ground with our Panel Discussion in place of stereotypically seen webinars with the distinguished presence of two of the best voices to talk about Mental health and well-being. Since we considered it important to give the message to the public along with some laughter, the embellishing part of the cake was planned close-mouthed, keeping the spirits of the crowd high and hyped.
“Even the tiniest drop of the project should carry the message” was like the mantra inside our heads throughout the three weeks. Bearing this in mind, after sweet little fights within the group, we chose the enlivening color yellow along with black to symbolize that we aim to bring back the mellow-yellow light within the souls intertwined with darkness.
To better reach the deep layers and dark corners of the human mind and to help everyone find their truest self back again, we formulated a survey questionnaire with the sole intention of collecting the issues that should be addressed in the discussion with the experts. With a wonderful amount of responses from the crowd, the next sleepless nights were occupied with making the plan such that all questions are answered by the experts.
The PR campaign for the ultimate escapade kick-started with attractive posts and videos on social media. The next days were full of the biggest revelations on the event.
The most anticipated moment finally arrived and the crowds started flowing in making our hearts skip a beat.
Dr.Prabhath Karunanayake; Director HR (China Harbour Engineering Company), Founder of ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ and ‘Speakers in You’ along with the glorious presence of Dr.Shanelle De Almeida; Clinical Consultant Psychologist, Founder of ‘The Mental Health Manager’ Mental Health Blog were there as our invitee speakers to light up the eve with their words and bits of their life experiences which made itself an eye-opener to all of us. Vishii and Anderson Haran made the audience even more amused. Grabbing the tips from the experts to a productive and well-structured life along with the hearts beaming with joy, we moved into the concluding event, the Q and A session. Both Dr.Prabhath and Dr.Shanelle humbly listened to all questions and provided worthwhile answers that helped us clear our doubts and rethink upon our own lives. Throughout the session, we were all on our ears even among the duties assigned to each of us.
The lovely feedback we received at the end really made us believe that our efforts paid off. We found the light within us and could usher everyone to the ‘happy land of yellow meadows’ just like we promised at the very beginning. Our utmost gratitude goes out to our immediate seniors Hiruni akki, Sajani akki, and Yasas aiya; the three giant figures behind a dream that came true, and to everyone, who walked this amazing journey with us.
Our sweet denouement wraps here, marking the end of our escapade, reminiscing an eternal truth; not even the blazing flame of a lamp would last forever. But we owe faith, the warmth of ours will reside close to our hearts, forever.
By Rtr. Udari De Silva and Rtr. Ruwangi Amarasooriya