Janice Cheung [BSS (Government & Laws) Year 3]
Kenny Choi [BA Year 2]
Benjamin Ho [BBA (Account & Finance) Year 3]
Sau Mei Lee [BSS (Government & Laws) Year 2]
Christie Tsang [mixed-degree LLB Year 5]
Sui Hung Yeung [mixed-degree LLB Year 5].
The common assumption that volunteer work is a one way act of charity, yet we believe it is a process of give and take through which we learn and love. We are Janice Cheung, Kenny Choi, Benjamin Ho, Sau Mei Lee, Christie Tsang and Sui Hung Yeung, and this idea of give and take, together with our passion and attitude of commitment, are the driving forces behind the service work we devote ourselves to.
The six of us are involved in a project called STEPS II (Steps To Embrace People in Sri Lanka). The main objective of this project is to provide sustainable, long-term aid to the people of Sri Lanka by co-operating with local non- governmental organisations (NGOs). It might be said that our project is relief work in its purest form because the entire project is initiated by us and we do everything ourselves.
We created this project from square one, beginning with researching the history and effects of the civil war in Sri Lanka. Our research revealed that the country went through more than 30 years of civil war, which only recently ended in 2009, including having been hit by two tsunamis. From our research, we acquired an initial sense of the "plight and agony of these [Sri Lankan] people" and moved the focus of our project to relief work for the war-affected population of Sri Lanka. After extensive planning and communications with local NGOs in Sri Lanka, we decided to go on a survey trip to probe further into the needs of the local community and to discover opportunities to help the war-afflicted.
In January 2011, we went on the survey trip with the intention of learning more about the war-stricken population, but the "trip ended up being more of an adventure" due to unexpected events. Our survey trip coincided with a serious flood that affected the Eastern province of Sri Lanka. Without any second thought, we joined the local branch of Red Cross to provide immediate relief and support work to the local people in Batticaloa who were affected by the flood. We were involved in cleaning and sanitising work at a hospital and helped out at a camp for the homeless. The flood in Batticaloa got worse and we had no choice but to leave the Eastern province which was a difficult decision as we had originally planned many NGO visits there. However, our experience in Batticaloa made us realise the gravity of the instability and strife in Sri Lanka:
There was a lot of uncertainty; one day we would feel safe being in the Central part of Sri Lanka, but the next day the flood would move in from the East to Central Sri Lanka.
As a result of our first-hand experience of the flood, we decided to extend the scope our project to include relief work which aimed at fighting against the flood problems that plague Sri Lanka.
We did manage to visit some local NGOs in the Eastern province. We have decided to develop long-term relationships with one to two selected NGOs. One of the NGOs we plan to form an alliance with is an organisation that provides artificial limbs for locals who lost limbs during the civil war. At the end of our trip it was clear that a lot of work needed to be done to figure out how we could offer financial and personal support to the activities of our selected NGOs. To date, we have maintained contact with these NGOs and have also started to come up with ways to raise funds and acquire financial sponsorship. We have already planned a second trip to Sri Lanka when we intend to fully implement and execute the practical goals of our project.
Love begins with understanding: you have to understand what is needed by others and what is required from yourself. For our project, we wanted to spread love to strangers who have suffered many tragic years of civil war. We began by understanding the life of these strangers. Through our experiences, we gained insight into our own lives and discovered how we could use our individual abilities to benefit the Sri Lankan community. This is give and take. This is a manifestation of love. This is one STEP forward in a selfless journey that we have embarked upon.