Bringing the Torch of Love to Vietnam
To foster students’ positive attitude and sense of civic responsibility, S.H. Ho College has been organizing a variety of social service programmes to encourage students to serve the needy in the society. In addition to visiting an elderly home in Hong Kong and providing teaching support to secondary school students through the SHHO Student Social Service Mentorship Programme, we also coordinate, together with overseas welfare organizations, service trips outside Hong Kong. From 2011 to 2015, our students had offered their caring service in Uganda, Cambodia, Yunnan and Wenchuan. In May 2016, they brought their ‘torch of love’ to Vietnam, bestowing warmth and happiness to the children of a blind school in Ho Chi Minh City.
The eight-day service trip to Vietnam exposed students to multifarious experiences for it also included cultural exchanges with local university students and a fun-filled boat tour in Mekong Delta.
On 16 May 2016, the first day the trippers set foot in Ho Chi Minh City, they went straight after lunch to visit the blind school called Huynh De Nhu Nghia Shelter for Blind Kids. During the three days that followed, they actively participated in charity work at the school by dividing themselves into three groups, each assigned with a separate task: the handmade-flower team made artificial flowers to help raise money for the school; the renovating team was responsible for fixing a playroom for the kids; and the nursing team taught ten kids (from four to six years old) to sing and dance, together with two Bruneian volunteers.
The school kids’ radiant smiles left a deep impression in Bobo Chan’s mind. ‘They were smiling so happily when we played and danced with them. Their smiles were very genuine. It is the most beautiful scene I have ever come across. It made me feel that what I was doing was worth it.’ When serving those in need, one will comprehend more deeply the idea behind the statement: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ So after working at the blind school, most trippers expressed that they felt thankful for all they were having now and would grasp the chances to help others in the future.
Their interaction with the simple but happy kids also inspired them to reflect on their own attitude toward life. ‘I think the kids have given me the motivation to live a simple yet positive and enthusiastic life,’ Bobo shared. ‘Despite their disability, they are still trying hard to learn. They are also very cheerful and enjoy their lives very much. They do not have much entertainment or material stuff. They simply sing and play with others in their free time. This is a big contrast to us Hong Kongers, who are generally quite materialistic.’ On the other hand, trippers’ exchange with local volunteers and students of Vietnam National University allowed them to learn more about the cultural, historical and political aspects of Vietnam and local people’s views on the world.
After a brief yet meaningful stay at the blind school, the trippers enjoyed relaxing boat rides in the Mekong Delta for nearly three days, mixed with short walks around quiet rural villages. They were amazed by the beautiful scenery along the Mekong River, like the natural creeks, stilt houses, canals lined with water coconut trees and orchards, an expanse of melaleuca forest dotted by bright flowers, the bird colonies filled with chirping birds, and the hustle and bustle of the Cai Rang floating market. The riverine journey exposed the students to the unique Vietnamese culture, such as the interesting transportation modes that local people employ to move around and the amusing use of coconut trees to produce useful products and handicrafts, putting a perfect end to this gratifying trip.