Helping them cross rivers safely at last
Among the comforts of Hong Kong we may find it hard to imagine the difficulties many villagers on the mainland face just to get about. To help them, three university students from Hong Kong decided to join a volunteer programme organised by a charity foundation, Wu Zhi Qiao (Bridge to China).
Stanley Cheng Fu-ching, 22, University of Science and Technology, Year One student
I am a civil engineering student, and in June, I joined a volunteer project to build a bridge in Baofeng village in Sichuan province . During six days there, together with the villagers, we built a five-metre-tall and 36-metre-long steel bridge, which replaced the original stone crossing. The villagers can now cross the river without fear of falling off into the river.
Working with local students and staying with villagers, I learned about their way of life. It took me a while to adjust, but soon I learned how to live simply.
The villagers need to rely on one another and be sensitive to one another's needs. This spirit helped us volunteers bond on the trip also.
One day, our team trooped to a nearby city to get bolts and nuts. Another day, local boys fashioned a temporary stretcher from bamboo for an injured volunteer.
Brandon Cheng Chun-kit, 20, UST, Year One student
Last April, I went to Dantan village in Gansu . We built two bridges: a physical one and a emotional bridge connecting people.
Villagers all lent us a hand, and we became good friends with them. We carried heavy stones, shoulder to shoulder, in the scorching sun. There were tears and sweat, but we did much better than I had hoped.
I was very impressed by villagers' kindness. They treated us like old friends, giving us their best food that they usually eat only on special days. Even the children worked hard on the bridge with their small hands.
The experience taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of making common cause with others. I also learned not to take good things for granted.
Hidy Yan Tsz-Tung, 20, City University, Year One student
I took part in two bridge-building projects, one in Honghe in Yunnan and the other in Bazhong in Sichuan.
At first I just wanted to have a holiday that was meaningful. But during my trips, I realised I had much to learn from the villagers.
Volunteers came from the mainland, Taipei and Hong Kong. I formed lasting friendships with many of them. Being away from Hong Kong and home, I also learned to treasure the people around me and the few things I had. I realised how much more fortunate I am than many people in the world.
It was also great to get away from the city and enjoy the pristine countryside. I loved gazing at the star-studded sky at night from the roof of a house.
I will definitely volunteer again.
To learn about how you can take part, visit www.bridge2china.org