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Since when is volunteering CAS?

In this week’s blog post, Neha, a IBDP student from India, gives her opinion on CAS and how it can be one of the best parts of the DP program.

Every time we think of something for CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service), we wonder “Does it count for CAS?” I am sure, we have all heard such phrases before. Those words find their way into the atmosphere every time a teacher asks for volunteers-for anything-for whatever reason. Even in the most ludicrous circumstances, like when a friend asks for help. However, everyone is joking. But my friend wasn’t. 

CAS. If that means something to you, you’ve probably heard the term a lot lately. Maybe you’re about to start the IB for the first time this Autumn. Or maybe you’ve already done a year of the IB but want ideas for how to make the most of it next year. I remember from my own IB experience how easy it can be to run out of steam amongst all the other work. But CAS should be one of the best parts of your IB Diploma experience! This blog is written to help you regain perspective of what CAS is, to inspire you to try something new, and to help you answer, “Does it count for CAS?” conundrum. 

Volunteering at NGO was one of my friend’s primary CAS projects in 2022. She didn’t volunteer to spread awareness or support charities financially. She simply volunteered there, because she found it enjoyable. 

My friend belonged to a NGO club named Sahayata, a group of people who regularly on every Thursday donate food to underprivileged people together. She was a member of this club before joining the IB, but when it came time for DP my friend had taken a leadership role. She had evolved into a mentor of sorts, training new recruits to volunteer, taking initiative to handle social media, guiding the general body of the club and to work as a team. She wasn’t doing anything revelational, though. She wasn’t saving the world. 

She was only engaged in doing what she liked to do– volunteering at an NGO.

That should be the goal of CAS, right? Should CAS not remind us that we have to live outside the IB programme,  with all of its coursework, examinations, essays, IAs, and anything and everything we do to just get a diploma. 

I’ve always believed that CAS should emphasize to pupils that there is more to life than just exams and grades. It is designed to aid students in resisting the temptation to give up everything they formerly enjoyed– from baking to making YouTube videos– just to make a little more time from studying or doing homework. 

But these days, it seems just another item on the IB program’s “To Do List.” It feels as if I am being asked to do everything from learning five new languages to stopping global warming.  I just remember this famous saying, “Let the world say what they want to, Do what your heart says!” It shouldn’t feel that way; it shouldn’t feel like more work on top of an immensely rigorous curriculum and difficult program. 

There is no point if it just feels like additional work to be done. If I am just doing it to tick another box off my to-do list, how will CAS ever have its desired effect? 

So, let’s bring back the days when anything and everything was CAS. 

Now that doesn’t mean sitting down at home and watching IPL (Indian Premier League) should just magically count for CAS, but it is a start. It should be a moment where you look at what you are currently doing and consider how you can take it further. Because, if you just take that one step, it can be an amazing project. You can do everything from talk about learning the tactics and strategies for CAS. Or join a community of it and take a leadership role. Or even organise a tournament where all proceeds go somewhere you care about.

CAS hasn’t changed, and never was: it was how we were instructed to begin. We are inundated with ideas and stories of people who have engaged in activities like volunteering at a non-profit organisation rather than discussing all the recreational activities we already do for fun and encourage us to explore those. But honestly, we often have no interest in such amazing projects. In simple Terms, CAS is a bunch of enjoyable and meaningful experiences which you get involved in alongside your academic studies. 

Therefore, encourage people to do all they enjoy doing rather than reminding them to be sure to tick off every item on the CAS to-do list. And afterwards, consider the next course of action. If you truly enjoy it and challenge yourself, you can tick that box without you even noticing. 

In a nutshell, let your personality define you CAS, not the other way around. 

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