1. Horticulture Club
Member September 2012-present, Executive member August 2014-present
The horticulture club has had many service-oriented endeavours in the time I’ve been a member, though not all of them have been on a wide scale. One of our in-school initiatives was/is the outreach programme, in which plants suitable for the available conditions are given to teachers to keep in their classrooms, with the assumption that them and their students will be in full care and custody of the plant. We intend to teach not only plant-growing skills, but also responsibility through this initiative to both students and teachers alike. Another initiative is our organic farming initiative, in which we bring members of the club as well as other students who are interested to an organic farm in the New Territories to learn about aquaponics, self-sustaining environments (effective, minimalist gardening) and coordination between human intervention and natural occurrences.
2. CAS Week – Sabah
While the school’s CAS week trip to Sabah, Malaysia is half action-based, the other half is service-based. We dug a road leading up the hill to a kindergarten to allow for easier access not only by vehicles but also by foot, as previously the dirt roads could be difficult to traverse by any means. We also helped build a fence around the perimeter of the school premises and around each of the buildings to help keep animals such as livestock out of the school grounds. We didn’t do much in terms of interacting with the students as we were mostly operating in another area of the site from where classes were held, but we were taught basic greetings and questions in Bahasa Melayu that we occasionally conversed with the children in.
How did you become more aware of your own strengths and areas for growth?
I was part of the planning team for the 2014 outreach programme in the horticulture club.We spent a disproportionately long amount of time putting off setting up, we found that the means by which we contacted teachers tended to be quite indirect, and on top of that once the plants and teachers were planned out, the actual method by which we would distribute the plants was poorly planned and disorganized. The next year, we vowed to improve our existing plan and develop new ideas so that the issues we faced in the previous year would not be encountered again, or cause problems in the outreach programmes of any subsequent years.
How did you undertake challenges that developed new skills?
In Sabah for CAS week, since I had never done this type of construction work before, I had to learn a lot of new skills, which were definitely challenging. I’m not exactly physically strong, so digging the roads even for short periods of time tired me out quickly, and I wasn’t able to get much done compared to a lot of other people. I’m also not exactly the tallest person, so I wasn’t able to reach a lot of the higher-up spots on the fences or flower beds we had to build. However, I was still able to be involved in the work and even though I wasn’t very good at it I was still able to contribute what I could.
How did you discuss, evaluate and plan student-initiated activities?
In 2016 we started the organic farming initiative, in which we bring members of the club as well as other students who are interested to an organic farm in the New Territories to learn about aquaponics, self-sustaining environments (effective, minimalist gardening) and coordination between human intervention and natural occurrences. We researched potential sites that would allow for groups as large as ours to come and do activities for a given period of time. I then went in a small group with only a few members of the club on a reconnaissance-type trip to survey the site and see what type of activities could potentially be done there.
How did you persevere in action?
Again, I was not the most physically strong person on the CAS trip to Sabah this year, nor the most daring person, but I was able to do all the activities during the week without backing out of any of them, even if I was sick, because I felt that if I didn’t that my self-worth would decrease due to not contributing as much as I think I should, as selfish as that sounds.
How did you work collaboratively with others?
This year, for CAS Week I went to Sabah, Malaysia, where I helped build structures around a kindergarten, though there were also more scary aspects such as jungle trekking, though I feel that now that I’ve had those experiences I have better interpersonal teamwork skills. Even though above I primarily discussed the service aspects, I believe that the action aspect also had an element of improvement in collaborative skills as well. Part of it was learning to assign tasks to people in a group and making sure they get done. The whole group was split into two and each person would be delegated a job to carry out. We would each need to do our fair share in order to keep the balance and harmony in the group, for example we would need some people to start the fire while another got water in order to be able to boil water to cook food. I also learned to help others in the same way they would help me, and by helping each other we learned to collaborate and gain trust and solve problems as a group.
How did you develop international-mindedness through global engagement, multilingualism and intercultural understanding?
When we went to Sabah, there were many cultural and traditional customs that the people there followed that were vastly different from those here in Hong Kong. Religion was one, with the majority of the people in the areas where we stayed being of a Christian division, whereas here in Hong Kong most religious people are Buddhists. Another was manners, as with visiting any foreign country, they had rules which people of certain status must conform to in a way that is not seen in my home city, such as children having to behave a certain way towards adults. Of course, when we went there the rules applied to us as well, so we followed them. We also followed the rules set by their local folk tales and beliefs, such as not harming nature. They also spoke a different language from what we speak here, they mostly speak Bahasa Melayu in Sabah, or otherwise regional dialects, while people here mostly speak Chinese, usually Cantonese. We learned a few basic phrases in Bahasa in order to try and communicate with the people there and find out what life is like for them to an extent.
How did you consider the ethical implications of your actions?
Someone on the CAS trip once asked why the camp this year was moved to do service work on a different site from many years prior. We were told that it was because the people there had grown a dependency on outside help, and if something went wrong they just assumed that some student group would come around and fix it for them, and they didn’t want that kind of reliance being developed. Another implication that was brought up was: once we leave, when we think back, was this trip really for others? Or did we come here for ourselves? This type of self-reflection made us think about the implications of what we were doing: sure, we were helping people perform a job that they may otherwise not have the resources to do, but on the other hand we may be doing it for our own selfish reasons such as for CAS hours or to feel better about ourselves. However, I personally believe that it’s a bit of both, and that overall the ethical mindset and implications behind our actions are valid and thoroughly thought through.