Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Serving in Old Buildings

Many people in Hong Kong live in old dilapidated buildings in Shumshuipo, Kowloon City, Wong Tai Sin or some similar old district.  The building may be falling apart. There may be cracks in the walls, and the concrete may be falling from the ceiling.  There may be cockroaches, spiders, ants, rats and more.  The water pipes may be leaking.  The electrical cables may be in danger of short-circuiting.  The building may violate multiple health, safety and fire regulations.  The building may literally be falling down.

The people who live there may be quite old themselves. They may own the apartment but they may not be rich.  They may not have the money to fix the building.  They may not know what government regulations apply to their buildings.  They may not realize that there are government programs that may provide them with advice or assistance.  They may not know where to look for help.

When someone make them an offer to buy their apartment, they may not be able to determine whether the offer is fair.  They may not know the market value for their apartment.  They may not know how to find out what an apartment of a similar size and type in the same neighbourhood is worth.

In a Service Learning subject offered by our Department of Building and Real Estate, professors are taking our students to visit the people living in such buildings.  They help to inspect the building for problems.  They talk to the folks to find out the situations they are facing.  They try to find relevant information such as government regulations, assistance schemes for maintenance and improvements, etc., for the folks.  It is a wonderful way for our students to learn about the community, show their care for the people, and apply their professional expertise to real society problems.

That is service learning that is a worthy component of an academic program. 


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