Jesse (GIN club: RESPECT):
The plight of refugees and education for all are the two issues that matter to me most. Reading the news about the migrant crisis in Europe a few years ago made me sympathise with the hostile way Syrian refugees were being received in their host countries, and the limited opportunities that they were being given with respect to work and education. I wanted to do something to help so I decided to start locally with the refugee community in Hong Kong, and since tutoring has always been an interest, I applied to become a leader of RESPECT (Refugee Educational Support Program – Everyone Can Teach!). Three years of working with refugee children every week at the Refugee Union centre in Sai Ying Pun have since flown by!
I spoke about my involvement in RESPECT at the Gavel x GIN competition because I wanted to share my experience of working with the children with the school community. My speech focused on my relationship with a young girl that I had the pleasure of knowing from the very start of my work with RESPECT, and the way she endeared herself to me as we got to knew each other. Distilling this 3-year experience into a 3-minute speech was difficult but I just about managed!
At RESPECT we’re always trying to improve our sessions and help out the families in any way we can. Upcoming initiatives include being in contact with suppliers to supply feminine sanitary materials to the mothers in our network and incorporating a digital curriculum using iPads into our lessons. I’ve learned in these three years that taking action is all about initiative – coming up with ideas and then putting them into action without being forced by others.
Mana (GIN Club: The Reading Tree)
I have always been passionate about education at the enabling power it had on youth to change their circumstances by building their skills and capabilities. Growing up in Hong Kong, in a very secluded area of Central, I had never been exposed to other children who didn’t have the same privileges I had, I thought it was the norm. At a more mature age, going to Indian orphanages and Hong Kong educational centres, I was exposed to a very different reality. These were children who had the capabilities to succeed but not the opportunity. This is what made me passionate about making changes to access to education and the right to opportunities that allows children to explore and succeed.
In realising that education was very significant to me, I sought to find GIN clubs that had similar aims and passions. I came across The Reading Tree, and was instantly active in trying to make differences in the local community by participating in local Buddy Reading Programs. From just being involved in the school club, I decided to expand my impact by joining the Kids4Kids Advocates Leadership Team, which let me participate in even greater depth.
I was actually never supposed to deliver the GavelxGIN speech! I was the writer, but someone else was supposed to deliver the actual speech. I think it was quite funny that I ended up delivering it, but I think it made it more authentic because it was written by me. I approached the speech by making sure I made it clear why TRT is an important GIN club in the context of our school and local community, but also what it meant to me individually. I tried to improvise a bit and make the speech more interactive by pointing out individuals in the crowd who could relate to TRT and went on our CAS trip. I think this is what made my speech successful, as I had tried to personalise it and get the audience involved.
The year has ended for our club in terms of events, but we have so much to plan and prepare for next year. Our next campaign will be looking at how to interlink advocacy and fundraising more cohesively. We have a lot of great fundraisers that make us a lot of money to help sustain our programs, but we would still like to make it clear why we fundraise and the importance of our actions.
I have learned that in taking action, the most useful tip is to initiate. Whether you know if it will turn out or not, just start planning and change things as you go along. I learned early on, that if you don’t get the process moving, it most likely will remain stagnant, and you would have accomplished nothing towards your goal. Just initiate and learn as you go!