Student takes leap of faith to give back to the community
April 13, 2023
Simran Mann, a fourth-year Social Justice & Peace Studies (SJPS) and Children & Youth Studies (CYS) student, had her first anxiety attack at the age of six. “I was unable to identify my feelings and symptoms due to the lack of knowledge and minimal conversation regarding mental health,” she says.
She grew up wishing there was someone that she could identify with to talk to about mental health. At the age of 21, she decided to be that person for others and create a mental health kit called “A Box of Sunshine.”
“The whole point of the kits was to create something I wish I had [growing up] that could have made navigating my emotions easier,” says Mann.
Creating the kits took six to seven months to complete because she “wanted everything in the kits to be of high quality, beneficial and extremely useful for the students.”
The kits include a custom mug with positive affirmations on it, a colouring book and a custom pack of coloured pencils, a stress ball, playdough, a pack of sunflower seeds, and a card from Mann herself, with additional information about the initiative and her passion for the project for caregivers.
The Box of Sunshine comes in a custom box sponsored by Vancouver Premium Packaging. Mann also received support from BRAR’S, a restaurant chain specializing in South Asian Food, which offered to print and laminate all the materials for the kits.
Inspired by a mentor, on March 20-22, 2023, she decided to “take a leap of faith” and facilitate a workshop, working with the 120 grade three students at Eagle Heights Public School in London.
Working with the school’s support counsellor, Mann put together a three-day lesson plan focusing on topics related to recognizing feelings, accepting them, working past them and being kind to our bodies through self-care and positive affirmations. The workshops consisted of class activities, drawing, writing and creating a safe space for students to share their feelings.
Mann says the students “actively participated in all of the activities, shared their work, stories and ideas with their classmates and I.”
What the students didn’t know until the last ten minutes of the workshop, was that each would receive a Box of Sunshine. Everything in the box was connected to what students learned in the workshop. “The students went wild. Their excitement was unreal and it truly made all of the hard work worth it,” Mann says.
Mann says her time at King’s inspired the project. “Being an SJPS student has always motivated me to create a difference. The knowledge I received from the CYS program gave me the experience and skills I needed to be a facilitator,” she says.
“Professors like Dr. Allyson Larkin (Department Chair/Associate Professor) encourage students in the SJPS program to shoot for the stars and understand social issues from all perspectives. Professors like Dr. Hala Mreiwed (Assistant Professor) in the CYS program encouraged me to get involved and use the skills I have gained in the classroom in the real world. Dr. Mreiwed taught me a lot about working with kids, including strategies that can be used to be engaging, ways to create a safe and comfortable environment for children and how, as adults, we can respect their agency and encourage them to be themselves,” she says.
Mann’s advice for others who want to give back to the community is “just get started” rather than overthinking things or worrying about how to execute ideas. “I always had this idea in the back of my mind but hesitated to get started because I was worried about failing or being rejected for not being fully equipped to work with children. Once I took the leap of faith and got involved in the community, I was able to build connections and receive so much support,” she says.
The London Free Press: She had anxiety growing up. Now she's teaching kids how to cope with it. - April 13, 2023