Girls with a mission
It's not every day that you get to sit back, relax and have a chat with a district councillor.
Ng Sze-yi, Kaya Lau Mei-tung, Jennifer Cheng Man-yi, Katie Lam Mei-kuen and Candy Chow Hei-ching were happy they had the opportunity.
'The district councillors are quite humorous,' said Katie.
The five girls, along with 45 other students, were appointed Kwai Tsing District junior councillors on May 13, 2006. They will run for two years.
Organised by The Boys' & Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong, the Student District Councillor Programme aims to arouse participants' awareness of problems in their neighbourhood.
It also gives them a chance to voice their opinions and help the needy.
The students gathered comments from children in their district and presented them to district councillors.
The five girls who met Shek Yam district councillor Andrew Wan Siu-kin said they were nervous at the beginning, but ended up chatting happily with him.
The junior councillors launched an anti-smoking drive in their neighbourhood on January 1.
They staged two street dramas on public hygiene and the harmful effects of violence. They also turned cigarette packets into dominos spelling out the word 'no'.
Mr Wan offered useful advice for the girls' No Indoor Smoking Campaign, and the girls gained a better understanding of the duties of a district councillor.
'It's a tough job being a district councillor. You have to get comments from the public and shoulder a heavy workload,' said Sze-yi.
Candy added: 'District councillors are sandwiched between the public and the government. If the government doesn't agree with the public, district councillors will be under a lot of pressure.'
Since November 2005, the young volunteers have been honing their presentation, critical thinking and analytical skills. They have also been trained to observe their surroundings.
At the beginning, most of them were shy and timid, but they opened up after joining the programme.
'I was afraid that others would make fun of me if I made mistakes. After volunteering
with Sze-yi to be the master of ceremonies at a press conference, I'm now able to speak in front of a large crowd,' Kaya said.
Jennifer added: 'As for me, the chance to attend a mock Legislative Council meeting on September 16  with [Legco president] Rita Fan [Hsu Lai-tai], the junior chief executives and the junior councillors was the most memorable.
'The debate we had over whether parents should use corporal punishment on their children enhanced our critical thinking skills.'
Candy said she joined the programme hoping to boost her self-esteem and become more active. 'I've realised that my mission is to voice the opinions of other children. There are many issues, such as child safety in playgrounds, that adults are not aware of because they don't use those facilities.'
Asked if she would want to be a district councillor in future, Kaya said: 'No, because my
goal is to join Medecins Sans Frontieres.'
Whether they become district councillors or doctors, the five girls have the same mission - to help those in need.