Circle of Love: Interact’s Community project

Ananya Bhat

Interact’s motto has always been “Service above self,” encouraging members of the club to participate in acts of community service every day. Keeping their motto in mind, Interact organizes two service projects every year: an International project, which focuses more on raising funds for a global issue, and a Community project, which focuses more on services that benefit local communities. This year, however, Interact’s Community Project focuses on a part of the community (and their motto) that they don’t usually think about — themselves.

What it is:

The project, called “Circle of Love” (COL) , revolves around one essential question — “How can we fully love and serve others if we can’t even fully love and accept ourselves?”. Junior Rupali Sujan, vice president of MVHS Interact, explains that in order to better serve and care for others, people must learn to care for themselves.

“Every year, we choose a project to find a way to help other people,” Sujan said. “But it’s really difficult to help other people until you’ve learned to love yourself, to help yourself.”

The aim of the project is to promote self-love and remove the stigma surrounding mental health amongst the community. To do so, Interact clubs across the Bay Area have set the goal of achieving 95,000 service hours for the project.

Interact’s promotional video for COL. 

What they’ve done:

One of Interact’s biggest events that they held for Circle of Love this year was “Circle of Love Week,” or COLW, where members participated in different social media challenges to try and spread self love and awareness about mental health. Lasting from Jan. 23 to Jan. 28, the week-long event offered a variety of ways to participate, from sporting green clothing and ribbons to spreading compliments on post-it notes, all of which were encouraged to be shared on social media using the hashtag, “#COLW”.

Sujan remembers her favorite day of the week to be the fourth day of the event, when she went around filming herself giving out compliments to her friends. While most were warmed by the random act of kindness and thanked her, one of her friends’ genuine bewilderment at the compliment made her realize why this project was important to her.

“One of my friends […] was like, ‘Stop, what do you mean’ and she got really shy and confused and she was like ‘Wha-Why are you complimenting me’ and honestly that made me realize how many times I’ve felt like that myself,” Sujan said. “I’ve been like ‘oh, this is so weird, why am I being complimented’ whereas it should just be a normal thing to compliment someone. So I really liked that reaction, it opened my eyes.”

 

Used with permission from junior Rupali Sujan. 

Chair of the Community Project Committee (CPC) sophomore Priyasha Agrawal also enjoyed this same activity mostly because of the reactions of the recipients of compliments. She went around the school handing out post-its with compliments written on them to friends and strangers alike, happy to bring smiles to their faces.

“One of my closest friends, I gave her a post-it and it’s all like ‘oh, you’re a really good friend’,” Agrawal said. “She was really happy so she cut it and put it in her phone case so that she could see it.”

Others, like club member sophomore Ria Ramani, enjoyed COLW because it allowed them to share their own experiences with mental health and educate others on the topic. Ramani took to Facebook to write a post about her struggles with social anxiety, discussing why it’s important not to label or judge those with mental health issues. After posting her story, Ramani was surprised to find that many people had liked the post, sending her kind responses of gratitude and support.

“When I wrote that big paragraph and I got a lot of likes, I was really happy because a lot of people came in and they were like, ‘hey, thank you for educating us about mental health’,” Ramani said.

What they hope to do:

As COL is the club’s Community project for the rest of the year, Interact will continue to do many different activities for the project, such as creating a Facebook page called “Monta Vista Cup of Tea”. The page will be aimed at posting positive quotes that spread self love, as well as surveys and links to educate about mental illnesses. According to the Interact website, the coming months will also focus on providing hope for lives touched by mental disorders.