A therapeutic visit
By Lilian Goh
Many students leave Hong Kong to experience different cultures in the summer. But few will experience what four occupational therapy undergraduates from Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) did this holiday.
The four Year Three students - Carrie Cheng Ka-wai, Krissie Lung Ka-ching, Priscilla Tam Wing-sum and Joey Tsang Sui-kwan - went to Fuzhou last month to use their professional knowledge to help people.
They travelled with five Harvard University students who were members of the Harvard China Care Project (HCC).
The HCC project was set up to help orphanages in China. It has been running for several years, but it was the first time a field trip had been jointly organised with the PolyU.
The five Harvard students study different subjects, and the four PolyU students studied occupational therapy.
Professor Chetwyn Chan Chi-hin of PolyU initiated the collaboration when he visited Harvard University last year.
He said the Hong Kong students could learn from their counterparts and use their expertise to help the needy on the mainland.
The students were in Fuzhou for 25 days. Their mission was to develop rehabilitation services for more than 30 children in an orphanage.
Many of the orphans have disabilities, including cleft lips and palates, and mental, visual and other impairments.
Every morning, the students did simple exercises - such as stretching - with the children. This was especially beneficial for the children with physical disabilities.
The occupational therapy students also designed simple tools for some children.
For example, they designed a sponge to help a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy improve her grip so that she can pick things up more easily.
The students also gave the orphans art and English lessons. And they played games with them to develop their creativity and enhance their language skills.
Sometimes, during weekends, they took the children hiking or to play in the park.
'There was a shortage of manpower in the orphanage. The guardians could not often arrange outings,' explained Harvard student Jessica Yang, 21.
'The children were quite bored.'
Born in the US, it was Jessica's second trip to China. She visited Beijing with her Taiwanese parents several years ago. 'My family still keeps a lot of Chinese traditions, like the food and the culture.
'But it's very different from experiencing the culture on the mainland.'
She thought the trip was very meaningful. She was happy to work with her Hong Kong peers.
'They specialise in occupational therapy while we [the Harvard students] knew nothing about it,' said Jessica.
'We only helped them to help the children.'
Joey was humble and said the students had different strengths.
She praised the US students' talents in arts and English.
She said she learned a lot from them.
The 21-year-old was also particularly happy that she could apply the knowledge she had learned in books to the real world.
The students hope to co-operate again in the future and help more needy children on the mainland.