Phew! What a busy time it has been! June and July were packed full of exciting events in both the primary and secondary schools and culminated with the completion of Term 2 (of 3) of the 2022 academic year. As we round the final bend for this school year, we have had to say goodbye to several friends and colleagues who are moving on to other countries or other career endeavors, including the now former Head of Primary, a beloved music teacher, and a wonderful teaching assistant who was in Kyler’s class last year and Eden’s class this year. While it is always sad to say goodbye, we are grateful for each person we have come to know here and the time that we have shared with them.
One of the highlights of the past month was watching our children perform during their music evenings. Ezra’s class performed on June 29, and Eden and Kyler’s classes performed on July 27. For the music evenings, each grade performed several songs that they had learned in music class throughout the term, and it was a joy to see their joy in making music. One of the songs performed by Ezra’s class was “Good Job” by Alicia Keys, a beautiful song written for the frontline workers during the COVID pandemic. Ezra was fortunate enough to have a small solo part during this song, and we are constantly amazed at her bravery and confidence as she grows in her love of singing. Kyler’s class performed several songs including “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars and the classic “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy.” As a result, we can often hear him in the shower or from his room upstairs belting out with wild abandon, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, WHERE?!, down in my heart, WHERE?!” Although he doesn’t share his older sister’s focus and dedication when it comes to singing, he loves music and luckily has not yet learned to be shy about singing as loudly as he can. Eden, on the other hand, remains the most reserved of the three, and nervously stood halfway behind her classmates during much of her class’s performance. Nonetheless, she smiled when we clapped and gave her thumbs up at the end, so I think she enjoyed herself, and I am glad that she had to opportunity to feel proud of herself for even standing on the stage.
Another highlight of this term was Sports Day! Sports day is much like what we might call field day in the US, but it is focused on track and field events, which here they call athletics. The secondary school had their sports day on July 8 followed by the primary school sports day on July 22. Both sports days were held at a local stadium, which meant transporting students, teachers, and equipment to and from the stadium on these days, which was no small task!
To encourage community and comradery, students at Lighthouse are assigned to one of three houses upon admission. The names of the houses—Fidem, Spero, and Amare—come from 1 Corinthians 13:13 and translate to faith, hope, and love. For sports day, students were encouraged to dress in their house colors (red, blue, or yellow) and earned points for their houses by winning or participating in various events. This friendly competition added an extra element of excitement as students created their own banners, cheers, and flags to support their teams. The secondary students were particularly enthusiastic about representing their houses and showed their enthusiasm with body paint, matching t-shirts, and accessories. In the end, Spero (our house) won the day for the secondary sports day, while Amare won for the primary sports day. Even with this focus on house spirit, individual students were still recognized and cheered for their performance in their respective age and gender divisions. Our own children finished well in several events, including Ezra getting 1st in the 80 meter, 2nd in javelin, and 2nd in long jump; Kyler getting 3rd in the 60 meter, 3rd in 200 meter, and 1st in shotput; and Eden getting 1st in the 200 meter and 1st in long jump. For any of you who missed the sports day videos posted on Facebook, click on the links and photos below to have a look!
Lighthouse Primary Sports Day – click to view video
Lighthouse Secondary Sports Day – click to view video
The event this term that was the most exciting—and labor-intensive—for me was Mental Health Awareness Day on July22…which I stretched a bit into Mental Health Awareness Week. Some months back, I suggested that we do something with the secondary students to recognize World Mental Health Day in October. However, because the upper secondary students (grades 11-13) will no longer be on campus in October due to exams, we decided to have our own mental health day in July. The goals for Mental Health Awareness Day were to educate students about mental health, to promote the importance of caring for one’s mental health, and to reduce the stigma often associated with mental health concerns. The last goal was particularly important because as I have continued working with students here, it has become increasingly apparent that there is a huge cultural stigma in Mauritius around mental health, and even acknowledging any type of mental or emotional difficulty is avoided. Although the bulk of the activities for Mental Health Awareness Day happened on Friday, homeroom lessons throughout the week were geared toward discussing and educating students about mental health, and during the mid-week assembly a special colleague shared her own story. There was also a fun house challenge during assembly to “stomp out” stigma. The week also included an art contest and a poetry slam competition in which students were encouraged to demonstrate the week’s theme of “Express Yourself.” The poetry slam competition was preceded by a poetry slam workshop presented by the Mauritian poetry slam champion, Lafleur Malade.
On the actual Mental Health Awareness Day, we set up various stations for students to learn more about and reflect on their own mental health in fun and creative ways. This is what took the bulk of the planning and preparation, but thankfully I have wonderful colleagues who helped organize everything so that it could all run smoothly. Even still, in the evenings leading up to Mental Health Awareness Day, I was washing rocks, partitioning 25kg (55 lbs) of rice, sorting balloons, counting chalk, and cutting paper leaves—among other things, to ensure that we had everything we needed and were properly organized to make this event a success for roughly 200 secondary students. In the end, I think fun was had by all, and I got reports from group leaders and colleagues about important questions and thought-provoking discussions that would not have happened without creating the space and opportunity for these conversations to occur. The day ended with displays of the artwork that students had created as well as the poetry slam finals. It was awesome to see so many students engaged and cheering each other on as the poets shared their personal thoughts and feelings.
Aside from the encouragement of seeing students openly engaging in discussions about mental health, the week also brought to light a number of challenges that students are facing. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we gave students a mental health questionnaire to screen for various types of mental health concerns and to provide the option of reaching out for support. There were a number of students who were identified as having serious thoughts or actions related to suicide and others who identified struggling daily with feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, overwhelm, or depression. Some students included comments such as, “I feel like I’m suffocating,” “It’s hard to accept myself,” “My family doesn’t like me,” or “I don’t know what to do.” Many of these students explicitly asked for help, and I have begun—with the help of the other school counselor, to sort through these responses and make sure that we reach out to every one of these students. We have also begun and will continue to make contact with students who expressed high levels of distress to offer further support. The idea of following up individually with each student in need can feel daunting. But the good news is that we have already connected with many of them, and I believe that it’s worth doing everything we can to ensure that students know that they are seen, heard, and loved just the way they are and to offer help and hope wherever possible.
It’s been a good couple of months. Nonetheless, we are grateful to have a few weeks off now to enjoy a bit of respite and renewal before heading back in for our final term. We hope that you all are also able to find rest and renewal for your body, mind, and soul.
In other news, we also celebrated Kyler’s 7th birthday in July. He had an iron man cake, his favorite foods, a new snorkel mask, and lots of lego time!
With peace, love, and gratitude from Mauritius…