Helping to serve the community

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 June, 2010, 12:00am


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Teenagers are often nagged for spending too much time on their computers. Microsoft's in-school student volunteer programme provides a channel for secondary students to put their technological knowledge to better use by serving their schools and communities as 'IT prefects'.

Form Four student Man Chun-king, of Caritas Tuen Mun Marden Foundation Secondary School, is a star IT prefect. From equipment malfunctions to network maintenance, he is always ready to come to the rescue.

The quiet student used to keep his IT knowledge to himself. That is, until he was hand-picked by computer studies teacher Law Kim-man to be one of the school's IT prefects in 2006. Man provided IT support, developed teaching materials and managed IT-related interest groups. He was recently given the huge responsibility of overseeing the security system of the school's network. 'The recognition and trust teachers have in me are overwhelming,' says the self-taught programmer. 'I wouldn't have the chance to manage a network or befriend students with similar interests if I was the old me.'

In 2003, Microsoft pulled together its corporate social responsibility programmes under one operation, 'Unlimited Potential' (UP). 'We focus on fostering education, creating jobs and providing access to technology,' says Clair Deevy, the regional citizenship manager at Microsoft in Asia-Pacific. 'Millions of grants have been given to worldwide initiatives and we often customise curriculums in different countries in responding to unique social problems.'

UP has been working closely with the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, setting up more than 50 community training centres at local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to deliver IT courses to senior citizens, the underprivileged and new immigrants.

While equipment and software were in place, the centres often lacked training and support staff. To alleviate the problem, UP this year matched 10 secondary schools with training centres to provide support in website development, e-promotion, helpdesks and tutoring.

'The programme offers a valuable chance for students to interact with people outside their social circle,' says Winnie Yeung, director of legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft Hong Kong.

She believes that the commitment Microsoft has shown in giving back to society will plant the idea of corporate social responsibility in student volunteers.

Law says that serving society can instil in students a stronger sense of belonging to their home communities. Volunteers realise that contributing to society can be as simple as teaching the elderly how to use a computer mouse.

'When you put your heart into teaching, the class will know and put more effort into learning,' says student volunteer Zoei Mak Wing-yee. 'It's rewarding to see them becoming confident enough to take on a task on their own.'

Unlimited Potential

Microsoft donates software

Initiates student-volunteer programmes

Provides IT training to the public, school principals, teachers and students

Matches tertiary students of IT-related disciplines to NGOs to customise software and IT systems

Gives tertiary students across the globe access to the latest developments and design tools

Organises Imagine Cup, a technology competition