In love with nature
Many teenagers spend their weekends shopping or playing video games. But a growing number of students are opting for weeding, planting trees and taking visitors around the Hong Kong Wetland Park.
The nature reserve, in Tin Shui Wai, was opened by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department in 2000. It is home to rare species such as Romer's Tree Frog and birds seldom seen in urban areas.
Third-year university students Fiona Tong Ting-ting and Anton Tsang Yin-ting became park volunteers
They are among a 900-member voluntary team that help out once a month.
Fiona joined the field operation division and is responsible for weeding and planting trees, while Anton is an eco-tour guide who explains the special features of the habitat to visitors.
Fiona said she decided to join the park because she seldom had the chance to appreciate nature.
'It's hard to be close to nature when I have to go to school,' she said.
'Doing voluntary work for the park brings me closer to nature and sometimes I can go to restricted areas to watch migratory birds.'
Recalling her toughest task, Fiona said she had to weed in bitterly cold conditions last December, when temperatures dropped below 10 degrees Celsius.
'The leader suggested cancelling the task, but most of the volunteers, including me, wanted to go ahead. Eventually we all went and weeded very slowly,' she said.
The fashion and textile student said although she had to work hard, her efforts were worthwhile because she made many friends during field activities.
'Some of the volunteers are as old as my uncles. But we are friends and help each other out in our tasks. I have also learned a lot about wetlands from them,' Fiona said.
Her mum is involved too. Fiona said she invited her mum to go along on the first day.
'My mother is very keen about planting trees. She joins me every time,' Fiona said.
Anton, who studies environmental science, said he gained a great sense of satisfaction taking visitors around the park.
He said he was putting what he learned at university to use.
'Although the sun can be really strong, I love to show visitors around and tell them about the park,' he said.
Anton said he had become more aware of the environmental damage caused by people since he became a volunteer.
'Before being a voluntary guide I didn't know which species were rare.
'Now I am more aware of the need to protect the habitats of endangered species,' he said.
Anton said he had also developed the habit of classifying rubbish before putting it into recycling
The World Wetlands Day will be celebrated on Saturday at Hong Kong Wetland Park. Activities include a prize-giving ceremony, exhibition and fun fair. For more information about the voluntary programme, call 2150 7171.