CityU helps to rebuild rural school
City University's Cheng Wai-yee had no idea what she was getting herself into when she sent her students an e-mail in 2003 asking them to help design and build a dormitory for a rural primary school in Jiangxi province.
The teacher in the department of building and construction told them it would be unpaid work with little or no academic glory attached but was surprised when more than 30 students replied.
Organised into task forces they set about the job of building a three-storey concrete dormitory to replace the old two-storey wooden one.
Lam Tin-kwan, 23, a third-year student who made the trip to Jiangxi for a site survey in January last year, said the old building was dilapidated and dangerous.
The pupils had to share a big wooden bed, the floor was muddy and the walls were covered with newspapers and plastic bags - an ineffective attempt to keep out the cold and damp.
'They had to go outside to answer the call of nature because there was no toilet inside,' he said.
Mr Lam spent two hours every day between January and April with other members of the team working on a preliminary design. One group helped cost and plan the project while two others hired contractors and supervised.
The students completed the building last month after a year's hard work and six trips to the remote village, which is six hours by bus from Guilin, Guangxi.
The 1,000 square-metre building comprises six teachers' and six students' dormitories, each accommodating 24 people, and each floor now has toilets. The students also built a canteen on the ground floor with a stage at the far end.
The students said they would now campaign to raise cash to build a library for the school next summer, and planned to set up a regular CityU volunteer programme to send students to teach in the school during the summer.