Information Services Office   19.8.2011


Newsletter No. 381 > Feature > At Uganda, We Care, We Share

At Uganda, We Care, We Share


A bottle of soda is something too common to raise an eyebrow in Hong Kong. If you had asked Year 1 medical student Sharon Tsang before, she might have told you professionally that the consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas was associated with obesity. But after taking part in a social service trip to Uganda in July, she now associates sodas with a special meaning—sharing. One day during the trip, she was having a meal with a Ugandan orphan. With a bottle of soda in his hand, the kid looked at her and noticed that she did not have one. He looked around and saw that no more were left. Then he gave his own to Sharon. ‘At that moment, I felt so warm inside,’ said Sharon.

This year, 15 students of S.H. Ho College have experienced a summer like no other. They have gone on a trip co-organized by the College and the Watoto Child Care Ministries. Led by Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung, CUHK Vice-Chancellor, and Prof. Wong Kam-bo, Dean of Students of the College, the team went to Uganda from 6 to 19 July for voluntary service, offering medical services to orphaned children and vulnerable women, sponsoring and assisting in building a student dormitory, and paying visits to various children’s villages, babies’ homes and women centres.

Meeting Future Football Star and President

Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world. After years of civil conflict, the country is in desperate need of economic development and reconstruction. About two million of its population of some 30 million are orphans. Every year, more than 64,000 people die of AIDS. Other aspects of people’s lives are beyond description. The visit to this land plagued by famines and diseases has prompted these young volunteers to reflect on the meaning of life and university education. 

Ngai Yee-shan, student of pharmacy, paid a visit to her sponsored ‘son’ during the trip. The nine-year-old is a primary two pupil, who gave a warm reception to his ‘mom’ from Hong Kong and invited her to play football with him. He dreamed of being a football player and put up a drawing of himself playing the game on the door of his room. Yee-shan said, ‘He has a clear goal in life despite his young age.’ Reflecting on her own life, she felt so ashamed. ‘Even a child has a dream. Why do we forget the dreams we once had? We work hard for better scores or better salaries. But what are our dreams? What are our goals in life?’ 

Lau Chak-lui, a student of nursing, was saddened by the scarcity of basic creature comforts and the lack of education in Uganda for its children. But he was impressed by their aspirations. He knew a child who told him that he wanted to be the president of Uganda. The unpretentious manner of the child prompted him to think about the relationship between the world and himself. He believes that we all can help the unfortunate, as long as we take the first step.

Doctors • Bricklayers • Beauticians

Led by Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung, five medical students offered free physical checkups for the villagers. Sharon Tsang said that this clinical experience was invaluable, but what was more inspiring was the caring attitude of Professor Sung towards the women and children at Watoto. ‘What makes a good physician and a good leader? It’s the ability to care for and serve those in need.’

Besides making diagnosis, Professor Sung and the students doubled up as bricklayers to build a dormitory funded by S.H. Ho College for a Watoto children’s village. Under the scorching sun, they built walls with bricks and mortar. To speed up the work, they often took off their gloves and paid no attention to the fact that their nails were rimmed with dirt. ‘We held hands, sang and prayed together before and after work. We worked for a common goal, regardless of our nationalities or social status. I was deeply touched,’ said Shen Jun, a student from the mainland.

When visiting the ‘Living Hope Women Centre’, which accommodates widows, unwed mothers, and women with AIDS and disabilities, the volunteer students became beauticians, giving manicures and facial treatment to the women there. Some of the women were disfigured, some of them destitute and homeless. What our amateur beauticians offered was in fact psychological therapy aimed at helping them to accept their appearances and rebuilding self-esteem and confidence. 

At the end of the trip, 10 students decided to sponsor Henry, a six-year-old boy in Watoto’s Suubi Village. A new member of the village, Henry was very shy towards his ‘moms and dads’. When the students were about to leave the village, they gave Henry a T-shirt written with well wishes from all his ‘parents’. ‘I wish him good health and a happy life. And I hope that he’ll receive good education and be able to read all the Chinese and English words on the T-shirt,’ said Andy Cheung, a student of pharmacy.

Happiness Not Taken for Granted

CUHK and Watoto have agreed on a long-term partnership to provide medical services, management and training of productive citizens in Uganda. For example, the Faculty of Medicine will send students and professors there every year to offer medical care and education; members of the Faculty of Business Administration will also offer management training to help enhance the operational standard of local enterprises, as well as assist local women in starting their own businesses. 

As Prof. Samuel Sun Sai-ming, master of S.H. Ho College said, ‘What we have done on this trip was so little, but students have already learned that they can apply their knowledge to serving the world.’ After the 14-day service tour, Professor Sung said the students now realized that many things in their lives should not be taken for granted. ‘University students are often criticized for living in an ivory tower, and caring only about their academic results and future careers. This kind of social service can broaden their views of the world. They have really gained much more from it than they would have in classrooms.’ 

Although Uganda is a poor country, children there always wear a smile on their faces. The students wondered why it was the case. Sharon once posed that question to a kid, who gave her a crisp reply: ‘We’ve got everything we need. That’s why we’re so happy.’ Sharon remembered when the trip was over, everyone had changed, feeling stunned, and deeply moved. Aspiring to becoming a physician, she caught a glimpse of the true meaning of life when the Watoto child handed her his bottle of soda—‘Share what you have even when it isn’t much.’

Articles by participating students

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