CityU students demonstrate the spirit of caring by serving

Karen Cheng

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About 100 students from different departments of City University of Hong Kong (CityU) were honoured at a certificate presentation ceremony on 21 April for their efforts in serving needy groups in the community. Sharing their joy at the ceremony were children and families they have served.

The students were this year's participants in the City-Youth Empowerment Project, a voluntary community service project that exemplifies CityU's spirit of whole-person development and caring by serving.

The project aims to foster a sense of social commitment and to build self confidence among the students. Key beneficiaries include children who require constant care, those from deprived, single parent or new immigrant families, and elderly people who live alone. More than 260 people benefited from the project in the current academic year.

Speaking at the ceremony, Professor Lilian Vrijmoed Kwan Lee-ping, Dean of Student Learning, said students could enhance their interpersonal skills and enrich themselves by participating in the project. "Parents and their children have given our students the opportunity to practise their social skills and learn how to care and communicate with others," said Professor Vrijmoed.

Students said that through the project, they had come to realize the importance of patience and encouragement in taking care of children. Seeing the children making progress had given them a sense of satisfaction.

Zhang Xiaomei, a first-year student in the Department of Accountancy, has participated in the project for two years. She has helped tutored children, involved in the "Uncle Long-leg Letterbox" service that provided support and guidance to children by replying their letters, and arranged activities for mentally handicapped children.

Zhang Xiaomei said she has benefited from helping others. "CtiyU provides a lot of opportunities to advance students' whole-person development, and the City-Youth Empowerment Project is one of them. We have not only acquire knowledge, but also learn about the importance of caring for others," she said.

King Lam Wai-king and Martin Tang Chung-man, both second-year students in the Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) in Social Work programme, helped children suffering from Asperger Syndrome to communicate with others. They said the children were shy initially but were willing to try with encouragement and had made progress gradually.

"The children finally overcame the difficulties and communicated with us after being encouraged continually. They even learned to care for others. A kid phoned me one time when I fell ill, and that really moved me," King said.

Martin said he got satisfaction from the service and had established mutual trust both with the children and their parents.

Dr Elaine Au Liu Suk-ching, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies and the convenor of the project, hopes the project can enhance mutual understanding between the community and CityU's students. Many students improved their own family relationships after joining the project, Dr Au said.

City-Youth Empowerment Project was launched at the CityU Student Residence in 2005 by the Office of the Dean of Student Learning and Youth Studies Net of the Department of Applied Social Studies. Local, mainland and overseas students were all invited to participate.

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