|08 August 2011||
This was not the first time I have participated in service projects on the Mainland, but this trip definitely brought me the most precious and unforgettable memories.
The bridge we built at Xianyuan Village, Lijiang of Yunnan was the first Wu Zhi Qiao (Bridge to China) project I have joined. In the past, I would never have thought that a bridge could be so useful to the villagers. Before it was built, the villagers had to wade daily across the fast-flowing river that separated the village and the farmland. Therefore, the new stone and wooden bridge helps to ensure their safety and make their daily lives a little easier.
For me, the most fruitful part of the project was not the physical construction work, but the link established between us and the local villagers. During the six days we stayed in the village, we had lots of chances to interact with the villagers. We learnt about their daily lives, their needs and befriended them. Seeing our limited manpower, they also came and helped by lifting and moving heavy stones and materials. By the time the bridge was finished, we all shared the joy and success. The bridge links not only both sides of the river, but also the hearts between us and the local villagers.
Participating in the WZQ service project was not just about giving, but also about taking and learning. I learn a lot from the villagers’ attitude to life. I hope to join WZQ again in the future to serve those in need and also understand more about the lives of the people living in poor villages.
Clement Tam (BSc, Year 1)
Our "Bridge to China– Tsinghua-HKU Centenary Celebration Bridge Building Project" began right at the moment when our feet stepped out of Lijiang airport, when our noses breathed in the fresh air of 20°C and when our eyes captured sight of the glittering blue sky.
The 21-metre-long bridge seems like a mini project not worth noticing, yet it was important for Tsinghua University and HKU, to the villagers of Xianyuan and to all the volunteers. The bridge marked a collaboration between the two hundred-year-old universities, especially because it was built by students of the two universities standing shoulder to shoulder, filling every single rock into the foundations of the bridge.
The bridge also provides convenience for children and farmers during the rainy season and prevents accidents. Some people, me included, might have doubted the usefulness of this tiny bridge but, listen to this: “An old lady came to me a few years ago after a bridge was built at her village and wished that the bridge had been built one year earlier, before her son drowned...” said Professor Edward Ng, Chairman of Wu Zhi Qiao (Bridge to China) Charitable foundation. My doubts vanished because no one can predict when the next torrential rain will come and flush away valuable lives, so we have to do whatever we can do whenever possible to prevent someone else from wishing the old lady's never-coming-true wish again. This may sound like what saints may say but this is something all ordinary people can do.
Outside the Bridge
Constructing the bridge was a meaningful event and concerned people who use the bridge with equal intensity as building the bridge brightens the whole event.
During family visits, the incomes of farmers became my greatest concern. People in Xianyuan have a GPD of around RMB 1500, mainly from planting and selling tobacco leaves. But a secondary one student there spends RMB 3000 one year. We can all imagine the toughness of people in this rural region.
However, pitying them was not the first thing that came to my mind. I wondered why tobacco planters earn so little a year while the price of cigarettes in developed areas is so high. I was also concerned about the education of children because many of their parents work in towns, leaving the elderly and the children at home. The quality of education is unimaginable. There are still dozens of issues related to low-knowledge, low-income rural areas waiting for us to investigate and to generate solutions.
As university students, we can try to understand all these things as much as possible and make as much change as possible. Yes, change is an endless process, yet everything we do now drives that change. That is why we should not hesitate.
The Most Unforgettable Moment
There was a pair of eyes, a pair of blurry, wrinkled eyes which I will never forget. Those eyes belonged to an old lady who came across the bridge and grabbed my hand in both of her shivering hands and squeezed it with all her strength, muttering "Thanks". I could not fully understand her dialect but I could see the gratefulness from her expression and I felt every hardship we went through in those seven days.
I experienced a lot of surprises and discovered a lot about the country that most of us belong to. I treasured every moment of the trip and I bet nobody regretted what they did in that week.
Yann Lam (BSc(Sp&HearSc), Year 2)
Wu Zhi Qiao (Bridge to China): http://www.bridge2china.org/