CAS Leadership: The Zebra Project
In this edition of student blogs, enterprising Year 13 student Zoe Lin discusses the Zebra Project, a CAS initiative she is spearheading to help children from Western China in, as well as the challenges she’s overcome in the process.
Please introduce yourself!
My name is Zoe Lin. I’m in Year 13 and have been at YCIS Beijing for 1.5 years. I also spent one year at YCIS HK before transferring.
Please explain what the project is and its goal.
The Zebra project is actually a private project organized by YCIS Beijing; it’s not connected to any charity. It’s called the Zebra Project because the town where the children we help are located is called “ban ma,” the same sound as zebra but with different characters. Last year, we donated second hand clothes to children, but this year they asked me to donate simple Chinese books as well. The town is at a very high altitude with an average temperature of -2 degrees and is very impoverished, so I think it’s very important that we help them.
What inspired you to initiate this project?
One of our teachers from last year got us students involved in the project. As he’s no longer at YCIS Beijing, I initially didn’t know how we would resume the project this year. Thankfully, I still had the school principal’s WeChat, so I took the initiative to reach out and see if they needed donations again this year. I was inspired too by last year’s effort and the kids whose pictures we saw to organize the project again this year, plus it helped to satisfy my CAS requirements.
Are you leading it yourself? Who has supported you during the planning process?
Two students from Year 13 are also helping me who were also involved last year: Lily Sandifer-Stech and Jenny Yao. We are the leaders of the project. Since my Chinese is the best between the three of us, I coordinate with the principal. Lily and Jenny help to make posters, give ideas about activities to raise money, clothes, and books, plus decide where to put boxes for clothes around the school. Lily also helps to give presentations around the school to raise awareness about the project.
What role have YCIS Beijing teachers and staff played in this process? How have they supported you?
The teachers are really supportive! Mr. Dawson, our CAS teacher, suggested that we do some activities outside school. Thanks to his support, we’re planning to make some sales during the weekend and then post via WeChat to help publicize the event. We’re still brainstorming with our other members about what we’ll sell during the activities. There are about 7 of us involved in total.
The Chinese teachers are also very interested in our projects. I’m going to find a teacher who can speak Chinese who can connect with the principal to continue the project after I’ve graduated. Mr. Fitzpatrick, Primary School Vice-Principal, also helped to encourage me to give presentations during assembly to raise awareness as well as send emails to Primary school parents.
Is this your first charity initiative? What other charitable works or volunteer activities have you participated in?
I did lots of part-time volunteer work in Hong Kong, including helping our school’s art teacher to teach underprivileged children how to draw at a local church. It really helped me to learn how to communicate with little kids. I also volunteered with Red Cross, participating in fundraising efforts on the street to raise money.
What have you learned through this planning process?
It’s been very difficult and a huge challenge for me! Being a leader isn’t as easy as it seems. You don’t just make all the decisions, but need to discuss different ideas with your group members and work with them to choose the best one. If they don’t support you, you will fail because you can’t do everything yourself. Assigning duties is also really important.
In terms of skills, I’ve definitely learned how to be a better leader and how to communicate better. I thought I was good at communication, but from this experience I realized I still have some work to do. Time management is also vital; everything is set by a deadline, so you really need to learn how to manage your time effectively.
How has this experience of planning and leading this project influenced other aspects of your life, e.g. academics?
This experience has definitely influenced my academics. Not only for CAS, but also other school subjects where time management and communication are important. In IB, time management is especially vital as you have so much to do. Since I started leading this project, I’ve started using a planner. It’s been really useful and necessary for the Zebra project as well as for all my academics. Last year, I wasn’t nearly this organized, so it’s been a very positive influence!