Eye-opening experience

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2005, 12:00am

Three Orbis student ambassadors from Hong Kong International School want to do more voluntary work for the underprivileged after going on a sight-saving trip to Hainan in July.

David Ng, Eliot Suen and Andrew Lui Shek-jun, all 17, raised $140,000 for Orbis - an international sight-saving charity - with a series of fund-raising activities they organised at school in April.

This was the largest sum raised among the 19 schools which joined the Orbis Student Ambassador programme and the highest amount since the annual fund-raising competition was launched six years ago.

The winning team challenged students to eat a dish of food while blindfolded.

Many participants ended up with food on their clothes and face.

An obstacle race was also held for blindfolded participants.

'We wanted to let our schoolmates experience what it's like to be blind,' Eliot said. About 200 students participated in the activities.

The trio's innovative fund-raising project won them the chance to work as volunteers in the rural town of Wuzhishan in Hainan together with Canto-pop singer Denise Ho Wan-si in July.

The sun is very strong in Hainan, and the residents - who are mostly farmers - work long hours outdoors. This has led to the problem of cataracts among the elderly.

More than 130,000 people in Hainan, or about 13 per cent of its population, suffer from an eye ailment.

This year, Orbis launched a three-year project with Wuzhishan Hospital to provide equipment and training for medical officers to educate the community about the importance of eye care.

As a part of the project, the student ambassadors helped conduct simple check-ups for patients at the local eye clinic. They also explained the risks and benefits of surgery to the patients.

'Some of them, especially the elderly, were reluctant to have surgery because they did not think it would help. Some of them thought cataracts were normal among old people,' said Andrew.

The Hong Kong students also met a young patient - a 14-year-old boy whose eye

was injured by a bird four years ago. His classmates constantly made fun of him, which made him stop going to school for two years.

But thanks to Orbis, he had an operation which restored his eyesight.

'We accompanied him home from the hospital, and we could feel his joy and happiness,' said David. 'We were so sad that he suffered so much at such a young age. It reminded us not to take our health for granted.'

The students said the trip made them realise that they took a lot of things for granted. Their parents are businessmen and most of their friends come from rich families.

'We would like to do more in future, both in terms of raising funds and visiting the poor,' they said.