HKBU students reach out

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2007, 12:00am

Students from Hong Kong Baptist University visited orphans suffering from Aids and other underprivileged children in Cambodia last month.

The 10-day trip included visits to orphanages and other children's centres in Phnom Penh. Sixty-five students went on the trip, which was aimed at raising awareness of social problems, such as poverty and insufficient health care, in Cambodia.

Among the many excursions on their itinerary, the one that left a lasting impression on the students was a trip to a rubbish dump on top of a hill.

Littered with animal corpses and food remains, the rubbish dump is a treasure trove for child scavengers.

With mosquitoes swarming around their heads and limbs, children rummage through heaps of rubbish searching for things that can be recycled or sold.

'I was so saddened by the scene. I can't imagine anyone from Hong Kong standing there for more than half an hour. The children were there day and night, looking for anything they can sell,' said Phoebe Wong Yuen-mei, a social work student.

Ms Wong was shocked by the poverty.

'I talked to some of the children at the rubbish dump. One told me he needed HK$12 a day to feed his family.

'To make that amount of money, he had to pick up 30kg of plastic bags,' said Ms Wong.

Visiting orphanages for children suffering from Aids was also a heart-wrenching experience for the students.

Some of the children's parents had died from Aids, and the children had to look after themselves before they found shelter with care workers.

'Many of them were sad and withdrawn. At first, we didn't want to touch or get close to the children. We were afraid that physical contact would put us at risk. But later, we realised that avoiding the children would defeat the purpose of our trip,' said Ms Wong.

'We went [to Cambodia] to help and show our concern. So we told ourselves to relax and we had a great time with them.'

Ms Wong was so touched by the plight of the Cambodian children that she plans to visit them again in December.