Thursday, June 21, 2012

HKPolyU - Cambodian Service-Learning Team

We had a BIG team this time.  There were 2 professors, 6 teaching assistants, 34 students doing the project for credit, 10 not for credit, 2 staff volunteers and 2 staff observer, for a total of 56 from our university.  In Cambodia, we were joined by 29 students from Human Resource Development Institute, 8 volunteers from New Life Fellowship, and 4 volunteers from Young Men’s Christian Association, for a total of 41 Cambodians.  Hence we had a grand total of 97 in the team.

And we could not have done all the projects without the Cambodian volunteers and students, particularly the survey of the slum.  Our Hong Kong team did not speak Khmer, and the locals mostly did not speak English or Chinese.  Without these young Cambodian translators, we could not possibly have conducted such a large scale survey, covering more than 100 families in 4 afternoons.  The same would be true with all the workshops on stop motion animation, animation with Scratch, robotics, etc. 

Somewhat surprisingly, most of the Cambodian youth volunteers have never been to the slums, and have never seen that side of Cambodia, until we took them there.  Many of them came from the country side, and were not rich.  They were aware of the garbage dump and the slums.  But they have not seen how bad it really was, with their own eyes.  Many of them also have not participated in service learning projects in the intensive manner that we conducted them.  So it was a challenging, rewarding experience for them as well. 

As I explained to the HRDI students in the 2 day training in preparation for the service, there is a digital divide between them and the young people in more developed places such as Hong Kong and the USA.  But there is another digital divide between themselves and those even less privileged in their own country.  While they learn from us, they also have much to offer to some of their own countrymen.  You do what you can, given the situation that you are in.  In the meantime, many of the Cambodian students have made good friends with many of our Hong Kong students.  It is wonderful to see that happening.

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