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The Heart's Journey: An Enlightening Internship in China

Summary booklets of the internship programme produced by participating students
Prof. Hau Kit-tai
Sze Tak-on
Chi Hin-cheong

In the summer of 2012, 21 students joined the first I‧CARE NGO Internship Programme in Greater China. The programme aimed at cultivating the students’ humanistic spirit and nurturing their sense of responsibility to the community. Through working in the NGOs, the students went to remote villages on the mainland and lived with the villagers to take a closer look at how NGOs respond to social issues arising from the country’s rapid development.

With the theme ‘To Start from the Origin of Life’, the programme encourages students to rethink the value of university education and their dreams, reflect on the importance of human relationships, and consequently, transform their lives. The students worked from June to August in six NGOs, namely, Shaanxi Research Association for Women and Family, Guangdong Green Farming Social Work Development Centre, Handa Rehabilitation and Welfare Association in Guangdong, Senior Citizen Cooperative in Beijing, Aohan Women’s Development Association in Inner Mongolia, and Guizhou Institution for Indigenous Culture Development.

Mr. Sze Tak-on, project coordinator of the Centre for Civil Society Studies which organized the programme, said, ‘Many of us learn about mainland China only from media and short-term exchanges. We see the rise of China’s economy and the entailing social problems, but seldom know how NGOs deal with these pressing issues with limited resources.’

According to Mr. Sze, the programme is more of a whole-person development scheme rather than an internship. Apart from placement, students have to fulfil the requirements of attending training sessions, writing weekly reports during internship, submitting post-internship reports, producing booklets and attending sharing sessions. All these place emphasis on personal reflection and team cooperation. Mr. Chi Hin-cheong, project assistant, added that the centre colleagues discussed with and guided the students throughout the programme. He expected this would help them to rethink their experiences and subsequently lead to change.

Prof. Hau Kit-tai, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of CUHK, summed up the programme with a saying ‘Give roses to others and the lasting fragrance will remain in your hand’. He explained, ‘Through serving the others, the students will learn about the world and themselves. They will understand their own values. What they get is indeed more than the beneficiaries.’

The students learnt about the difficulties the NGOs are facing. Their developments are highly restricted by the government, and as there is little subsidy from the government, they have to work hard to seek overseas sponsorships. Moreover recruitment of staff is hard because people are reluctant to join the rank of social services. Despite huge obstacles, the NGOs still strive for survival and to serve the needy, demonstrating their strong sense of social responsibility.

Last year, the programme received about 80 applications and the number reached over 200 this year. NGOs from Taiwan also joined the programme to offer placements which means that students can go to Taiwan for the experience this year.