Sunday, January 20, 2013

Volunteering, Hong Kong style

Here is a piece of data which is pretty damming if true.  This chart appeared in the South China Morning Post earlier this month.  The percentage of people who volunteer in Hong Kong is shamefully low, compared to countries that we often compare ourselves with.  Taiwan is not much better, while mainland China is abysmal.  Some people have tried to defend it, saying that perhaps some Hong Kong people do not consider certain types of activities as volunteering while other countries do, etc.  But other countries can probably make the same argument.

I remember one discussion in our university in which I brought up the case of University of Pennsylvania.  UPenn’s students “adopted” a high school next to their campus, and helped to make tremendous improvements at the high school.  In response, a senior professor claimed that Hong Kong does not have a inner city as run-down as that of Philadelphia, where UPenn is; hence there is no such need for community service by our students.   I challenged him to take a 10 minute walk over to Yaumatei, so that I could show him where the needy people were.

Looking at the SCMP chart now, he reminded me that there are deep-seated reasons why Hong Kong’s number is so low.  Instead of being discouraged, however, I am the more determined that we should do our best to take our students out of our campus, to engage the community.  And probably our professors (some of them, at least) need the experience more than our students.


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