Elijah Ferrian interviews four students from ISHCMC about their MYP Personal Projects which are changing the hearts and minds of young people through interaction with community. Photos by Vinh Dao.

A unique feature of the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) is the Personal Project. In the final year of the MYP, Grade 10 students complete this guided, independent piece of work which is a culminating demonstration of all the Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills developed over the course of the MYP.

The project offers ISHCMC students the opportunity to show initiative, while also reflecting upon their MYP experience. The Personal Project is not linked to any one subject and it therefore provides an opportunity for all students to select and create their own, truly personal, piece of work.

The Personal Project process requires each student to show a sincere commitment to the completion of a project, demonstrating his/her ability to organize and create a work of significant importance. The process of reflection is carried out throughout the project, not just at the end, with students being encouraged to reflect regularly on their inquiry process and on the actions they have taken at various stages of their project. The development of the personal project follows the following stages: investigating; planning; taking action; reflecting; and demonstrating.

We interviewed four students to see what their thoughts were on the programme, what they chose for their personal project, where their mindfulness training at ISHCMC has tied into all of this and to see how the whole experience has affected their and others’ lives.

Carla CricentiSaigon Vegan – Vegan Educational Social Media Platform:

After becoming vegan 2 years ago, Carla felt that she had a lot of knowledge to share with those who were interested in finding out about veganism in Ho Chi Minh City. She discovered that doing something relatively simple could have quite an impact on others.

“I created a social media platform to provide firsthand knowledge that wasn’t available online. My website consists of a range of different media, recipes, nutritional videos, and restaurant reviews.

Veganism has quite a bad stigma. People tend to think about ‘preachy vegans’, and obviously my project was for quite a specific type of person. Being a teenager, I am quite relatable [for other teenagers] and over two days I got over 700 views.

My main motive for becoming vegan is ethical reasons. Putting it up on social media made me an advocate for something I really believe in. Veganism specifically is about being mindful of everything you consume. The whole project in general is being mindful of how you affect your community and others in it.”

This project enabled Carla to make relationships outside of her community and she has found more like-minded people. Carla also learnt videography and editing skills and persevered through a process of trial and error to complete her end project.

See Carla’s Facebook project

 Grey BakerLet’s Play Football – Football with Underprivileged:

Grey is a keen football player and decided to use his skills to create a service group, which focused on giving orphans the potential to play football with the proper equipment and on real fields.

“Growing up, people have struggles, and football has always been a good stress reliever. It can help to relieve fear and anxiety. I always thought of football as just a regular activity, but when I started working with these kids and teaching them I realised it is much more. These kids have so much stress. This project helped to educate people on how sports can have a positive effect. It was like depression therapy. I interviewed everyone at the end, and they felt that it made them happier. It took their minds off their struggles in life.

Playing on a team with other people is very beneficial. By taking away your thoughts, mindfulness plays into football perfectly. When you’re playing football you’re present.  My goal now is attempting to get a scholarship to allow these people to continue playing”.

Emily TaylorTrading Lives – Human Trafficking in Vietnam:

After reading an article on CNN last year, Emily was shocked to learn that girls her age were being trafficked and sold in Northern Vietnam. She decided to film a documentary to educate people about this human trade,

“I created a documentary focusing on human trafficking in Vietnam. Because of China’s one child policy there is a gender imbalance which has led to a trade of young Northern Vietnamese girls being sold for about VND1,000,000 each as brides or workers.

I got in touch with a charity called Pacific Links Foundation and I visited Lao Cai province twice. Once I had heard [the girls’] stories I knew I wanted to make a documentary and share their voices. Film is an effective way to share information widely.  I wanted my documentary to illustrate how beautiful it is up there, and to contrast that to what is going on.

The second time I went up I visited the Pacific Links’ Compassion House for girls who are trafficking survivors. I cooked with the girls, taught them English and talked with them through a translator. I was amazed at how much effort they put into everything they do. They want to have a bright future and make money. I talked to some of the girls after spending the weekend with them, and one of the girls said this was one of the best experiences she’s ever had.”

Emily taught herself the whole process of how to make a film – from creating a storyboard, planning her shots to the filming and editing. She found that her mindfulness training taught her resilience and helped her to get through obstacles and to find an alternative solution when she was stuck.

Watch Emily’s video

Sally KimWhat Words Can’t Begin To Reveal – Collection of Wearable Art to Convey Mental Illness:

Sally is a talented artist who chose to create a collection of wearable art to express mental illness symptoms for her Personal Project. Sally taught herself dressmaking skills from online videos, as well researched the brain and psychology to understand the symptoms of mental illness better in order to make her collection.

“I decided to create a project of wearable art in the form of dresses. I am really happy to say that mental illness does not have the stigma around it that it once did. I didn’t have much knowledge on this topic initially, so I contacted specialists in Ho Chi Minh City about mental illness. What I try to convey is not the mental illness itself, but the symptoms.

For every mental illness, there is no objective definition. I learnt a lot about how abstract and ill- defined mental illness really is and how the brain works and how this affects various people differently.

I learnt about how we’re accepting, but we’re just not very understanding about how complex the mind can be or how overwhelming mental illness can be to one individual. We need to understand more how we can respect and support people in need. The most significant impact right now is that we are accept people and encourage them to see a therapist and get medical attention.”

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