Chokolaate, Bringing People Together Online

Chokolaate, Bringing People Together Online

The onset of COVID19 forced many countries across the globe into a state of lockdown. Curfews were imposed, schools and businesses closed down, and social distancing regulations were set in place.

While the new normal took some adjusting to, and the economy suffered due to the sudden difficulties posed by lockdown, everyone shifted online, and quite a few new digital ventures started, thriving in the suddenly crowded digital space.

Chokolaate, following the digital shift once curfew was imposed, quickly adapted to the new reality with gusto. Using the instagram platform to its full potential, they hosted over a hundred instagram live interviews and talks within just a couple months. Expanding this project, they also hosted an online open mic night, and a month-long campaign for mental health awareness, Behind the Mask.

As May came around, and their engagement rates grew, they also branched out into webinars, providing conversations of insight not just for a young audience, but an older crowd as well. Conducted through zoom, the webinars were streamed live on facebook and also shared on youtube, and reached almost 45,000 people within one month. Here’s what they discussed:

Weathering Storms

With the sudden onset of curfew, many people found themselves struggling to adjust to many changes in their lifestyle as well as keeping up with news and dealing with uncertainty about the future. All this, combined by the disconnection from friends and family took a toll on the mental health of the collective community.

As the overall mood dampened, Weathering Storms was organized to discuss the mental toll of the pandemic, how to adjust and take care of your mental health, and hope for the future. Moderated by Shanuki De Alwis, activist and talk show host, the panel had input from Nathali Devinka, Nivendra Uduman and Sharan Velauthan, professionals and advocates in the field of mental health awareness.

The webinar had an audience of over 50 people, and the discussion encompassed many helpful tips and guides that everyone could relate to.

Power On!

As the economy fell due to the social restrictions enforced by the pandemic, companies and businesses struggled, but the shift was more acutely felt by entrepreneurs and small ventures who had started establishing their foothold in the field.

Power On! moderated by Radha Wimalawansa of the Chokolaate crew brought in perspectives from Sasmini Bandara, former project manager at Venture Frontier and current community associate at Hatchworks, Rukshi Nethicumara of Butter Boutique, Jeeza Jameel of R&J apparel and Randy Chriz Perera of Meraki Studios. The panelists shared the challenges they were weathering through, and how they were combating it in the new economy, and ended with some tips for budding entrepreneurs during this age.

Music in the Digital Age

As soon as lockdown started, the music industry boomed, with many people turning to music and the arts to pass the days. Sri Lanka also started thinking about drive through concerts, and overall adapting to this new digital space.

Chokolaate facilitated a long and informative discussion with some giants in the music industry, Bathiya Jayakody and Santhush Weeraman, Dushyanth Weeraman, Randhir Withana, Natasha Rathnayake, and Suresh De Silva. Moderated by host and artiste Stephanie Siriwardhana, the webinar engaged almost 30,000 viewers through zoom and facebook, and discussed everything from music production and copyrights to drive through concerts and flexibility in genres.

Sustainable Futures

With the onset of COVID19 and the lockdown, humans isolated themselves from the world. In our absence, nature began to thrive, with air pollution reducing, canals clearing up and wildlife returning to cities. This spurred discussions and debates about our impact on the environment, and many people began evaluating how to reduce their harmful impact in their daily lives.

Chokolaate spoke with Nadeesha Paulis, Gaia Kodithuwakku, Lonali Rodrigo and Semal Luthra on the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle, and how we could do that post pandemic. Moderated by radio personality and Chokolaate team member Nethmi Liyanapathirana, a very beautiful and empathetic discussion was carried out on how we, as humans, can be more conscious.

Creativity During COVID

One of the most positive sides to COVID19 was the newfound time on everyone’s hands. It was only a short time later that people began using this time positively to connect with family, learn new skills or simply just take a break.

One unexpected side effect, however, was the creativity sparked by long hours of thought and a digitally connected community. From cosplays to arts and sculptures to games, comics, animation, writing and more, creativity was everywhere you looked. Chokolaate partnered up with the geek club of Sri Lanka to have a fun conversation to appreciate all the budding creatives out there. The panel, consisting of Thilani Samarasinha, Vasanth Kahandawala, Sachi Ediriweera, Andrew Sean, Opula Fonseka and Tai Shiek, was moderated by Chokolaate’s own resident geek, Shamindri De Sayrah.

Redefining Classrooms

With an ongoing pandemic forcing the schools and educational institutes to remain closed, concerns were immediately raised about the children’s education. Many schools in Colombo reinvented their education system, shifting within just a few weeks to online classes. A panel in conversation with a few esteemed guests from various schools brought light upon the measures that schools were taking, and the education being carried out by teachers working tirelessly over their computers and phones.

Attended by Ms Anitra Perera of Alethea school, rev’d Marc Billimoria of St. Thomas’s College, Nelum Senadira of Musaeus College, Vinita Shenoy of Gateway International, Malith Kumarasinghe of Wycherly School and Hasna Iflal of Hejaaz International, the conversation was moderated by Chathushka De Alwis. The topics discussed varied from the current situation of online education, the shift towards it, and their thoughts on the future of education.

Behind the Mask

May being the month of mental health awareness, Chokolaate launched their annual campaign behind the mask this year, as a fully online campaign. With the theme of ‘bullying and mental health’ the campaign continued through Chokolaate’s social media platforms, and wrapped up with a webinar on the 31st of May.

Moderated by Seth Ganepola, Director of Capacity Building in Hype Sri Lanka, campaign partners for Behind the Mask, the panel was attended by Dr. Tush Wickramanayake, Ms. Iresha Chamindi, Ms. Dinesh Chandrasena, and Dr. Kalhari Pitigala, and was a comprehensive and structured discussion on bullying and the effect it has on mental health, going through various aspects like domestic violence, corporal punishment, and ragging as well.

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