CityU staff, students and alumni help Sichuan earthquake victims rebuild their lives

Scarlett Leung

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The Sichuan Earthquake Concern Group formed by students, alumni and staff of City University of Hong Kong (CityU) visited the disaster-stricken areas of Sichuan from 11 to 20 August to help survivors overcome their grief and rebuild their lives.

As part of Rebuilding Lives and Schools - Project Rebuild for the Sichuan Earthquake initiated by CityU’s Department of Applied Social Studies, the 10-day visit involved more than 40 students, alumni and staff from various faculties and departments. The volunteers visited schools and temporary shelters housing victims in the towns of Junle and Xiaoyudong in Pengzhou City and the township of Hanwang, of Mianzhu City, Sichuan. By distributing stationery and greeting cards and organising therapeutic games, they helped local children express their inner feelings and find happiness again. They also interviewed more than 200 disaster survivors and local volunteers in the affected areas to understand their rebuilding needs.

Dr Leung Kwan-kwok and Dr Lee Tak-yan, associate professors of the Department of Applied Social Studies who organised the visit, said although they faced various challenges, the problems were eventually solved with a concerted effort. Communication was one of the problems they encountered as some local people being interviewed did not speak Putonghua. Due to the terrain in certain affected areas, some pre-designed games could not be conducted. Despite all these difficulties, they managed to run the project smoothly.

Dr Leung said the visit provided a valuable opportunity to the University’s students, alumni and staff to achieve their own learning outcomes as they dealt with difficult circumstances. For Dr Lee, the visit was a way to promote a spirit of caring for other people and communities and encourage students to make a positive contribution to society.

Sonya Kan Wing-yin, Year 2 student of BSocSc (Hons) in Social Work, said the trip allowed her to apply her counselling skills. This valuable experience has helped her better understand her chosen profession.

Mr Francis Li Yat-sing, Master graduate of the Department of Economics and Finance, was responsible for researching the victims’ needs. He praised the alma mater for organising the visit and said the activity was very meaningful as it allowed Hong Kong people, who are not subjected to the tyranny of earthquakes, to understand the difficulties faced by victims and the challenge of rebuilding affected areas.

The visit was a collaborative effort between CityU and Southwest Jiaotong University. Students and staff of both universities provided relief work, while students of Southwest Jiaotong University helped interpret the Sichuan dialect.

Before departing, all CityU participants underwent professional training in arranging therapeutic games and ensuring appropriate services could be provided. Several CityU teachers also held talks on social work, crisis management and counselling skills for the students of Southwest Jiaotong University and local volunteers. Dr Leung said it was hoped a long-term collaboration with local education institutes could be maintained. They would also follow up on the rebuilding programme, including a plan to set up a community rebuilding centre in Sichuan to help victims rebuild their homes.

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