Social work nurtures leadership qualities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 August, 1999, 12:00am

Helping others has helped one student gain admission to university.

Lummy Chan Ha-lei has been admitted to the Polytechnic University under a scheme that takes various criteria - such as community service - into account.

The 20-year old, who is now studying Social Work, is an active member of PolyU's Student Union.

Ms Chan will continue her second-year studies after the summer holidays - but she has been busy all year. She is an external affairs secretary and external vice-president for the union's international affairs committee.

'I started doing social work when I was very young . . . I can't explain the satisfaction I feel inside, but I feel so happy. This is not a one- way process in which I am the one who offers services and help to others,' she said.

'It is indeed an interactive process in which I get along with them and learn from them. I may change my perception of certain groups of people and build up sympathy and a positive attitude towards them.' She said the trust of her clients was essential in motivating her.

At secondary school Ms Chan took part in the school's social services group and was elected its chairperson. During the past few years she and other helpers have visited handicapped children, new immigrants and elderly people.

She sees social services as equally important as her studies.

'Time management is important in this aspect. I want to boost my leadership and communication abilities through social services, but maintain time for my studies,' she said.

Ms Chan's volunteer work with AIDS Concern inspired her to challenge bias against people with the virus.

'The first time I accompanied an AIDS patient to see a doctor I felt so odd when we touched. Later I was relaxed and took her for dinner.' She said people with AIDS felt lonely and faced strong pressure from family, friends and had to contend with discrimination.

Ms Chan, who scored three Ds and one E in the A-level exam, said schools should encourage students not only to excel in studies, but achieve all-round development through extra-curricular activities.

'The exam system gives too much focus on memorising the text without nurturing social skills, leadership and organisational abilities which are much needed for a smart student,' she said.

She believes that a comprehensive assessment including non-academic subjects on a continuous basis will improve a student's learning progress.

'Those who may not be good at memorising and tackling exams should also be given a chance to study university programmes with other non-academic achievements,' Ms Chan said.

She believes university heads should work closely with secondary schools and the examinations authority to bring about changes in society.

Ms Chan was among other 186 secondary school students who gained places at tertiary institutions after being nominated by school principals on the basis of non-academic achievements.