May 12, 2008 will go down in the annals of Chinese history as a day of great tragedy and sorrow. The earthquake of magnitude 7.8 destroyed many lives and homes, and for those Sichuan people who survived to rebuild the memory of that day will never be erased. YMCA organised several service tours for secondary school students and undergraduates to provide physical help and emotional solace to the victims. In the winter of 2009, Jimmy Cheung Ngai-hang, now a Year Three Civil Engineering student, joined the fifth service tour to Sichuan. His service team of 16 held events in the children's centre, old folks home and the primary school built by YMCA in Sichuan. Jimmy learned the value of treasuring what you have, because you never know when that may be taken away. He also questions some things he perceives to be wrong, developing a sense of social justice from his up close and personal experience.
"When I visited the Children's home on my first night in Sichuan, I was very upset," he recalls. It was because when I took the children's hands, I found that their fingers were swollen. One of the staff there explained to me that it was due to the freezing temperature in Sichuan.
In Hong Kong, I think such cases seldom occur. Even though there are still many people who need help from others, there are charities that will actively give them a hand. Besides, the HKSAR Government will provide people in need with basic daily needs.
But the government in Sichuan has not done enough on planning for the reconstruction of the affected area after this destructive earthquake. Even after two years, the reconstruction work is still a 'work in progress'. Some of the victims who lost their homes were still living in temporary huts.
"The PRC Government could afford to spend a huge amount of capital on the 2008 Beijing Olympic and the Shanghai Expo in 2010, but then why have the citizens in these two cities enjoyed these great events while some others are still suffering?"
Jimmy was responsible for designing some games that would be played in the YMCA primary school in Sichuan. "For me, this was quite a hard job," he admits. "Primary school students are all too energetic, so the games that we played there had to be pretty well controlled, otherwise the situation would have been chaotic! Although we spent a lot of time designing two suitable games for students, the children were too restless. It was almost impossible to get them to listen to our commands during the games!
"But, through spending a day playing games with them, I was inspired by these students. Compared to Hong Kong children, the children in Sichuan were a lot easier to satisfy. In Hong Kong, most kids are totally mad for their TV games, portable videogames and so on. But playing some simple group games to give the Sichuan primary school kids a chance to play outdoors was good enough to make them happy and contented."
Jimmy says the victims of the Sichuan earthquake bore their psychological and physical pain with great fortitude. "Their perseverance had a great impression on me. Even though they may not be the luckiest people in the world, they were not full of remorse. Instead, they gave their blessings to others in the world through making the Sichuan Wawa, which is a social enterprise project launched by YMCA.
During a sharing session with one of the voluntary workers from YMCA in Sichuan, I was totally inspired. He said: 'When you hear the stories from the victims here, you will have your mind strengthened. The obstacles that you come across in daily life are no big deal when you compare them to those encountered by these victims.'
"These comments gave rise to my thinking about the weak minds of youngsters in Hong Kong. The pressure from studies, peers or their boyfriends/girlfriends can be too much for them. I do hope every single person can reflect on this after knowing the stories from the victims in Sichuan."
Jimmy Cheung Ngai-hang
(BEng(CivE), Year 3