Helping hands

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2009, 12:00am


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Volunteering is becoming increasingly popular. It is the perfect opportunity to travel abroad and gain valuable experience. Although volunteers do not get paid, and transport and accommodation costs usually come out of their own pockets, helping people in need is a reward in itself.

Ava Leung Wai-kwan can testify to that. She visited children suffering from Aids and young people orphaned by the disease in Cambodia four years ago as a secondary student.

'It was an eye-opening experience. I came to realise I am better off than many people,' said Ms Leung, who has since become a regular volunteer with several charities and organisations in Hong Kong. 'Volunteering is not only about helping others. It's also about helping yourself, allowing you to see and experience new things.'

Most tasks undertaken by volunteers are simple - teaching English, working in wildlife parks or helping out with infrastructure.

In Hong Kong, the Agency for Volunteer Service ( provides a lot of information, including links to registered volunteering organisations and referral services for those who want to help others.

The government-funded agency has a database which lists volunteering projects by registered Hong Kong charities, and tells you who to contact. The agency organised volunteer groups to help the Sichuan earthquake victims, for example. The tasks involved distributing necessities, staging performances and helping out at schools.

Projects Abroad ( is an international organisation that offers placements in fields such as medicine, teaching, community work, conservation and journalism. Founded in 1992, it has sent more than 15,000 volunteers to 21 countries.

'Our volunteers work in challenging situations that require cultural understanding, creativity and initiative,' the organisation's website states.

One volunteer who worked in Cape Town, South Africa, said: 'From hearing children express their hunger to me and seeing the atrocious living conditions in the camps, I [gained] a greater understanding of the nation's apartheid past.'

Martin is a Young Post intern