THEY may have disabilities, but handicapped people are not much different from the rest of us, declared a group of student volunteers. The seven students had spent seven days this summer working with disabled children. In a summer service project, 20 students from two schools met up with 35 disabled and able-bodied youngsters who are members of the West H.K. PHAB (Physically-handicapped and Able-bodied) Centre, Hong Kong PHAB Association. The two schools involved were St Paul's Convent School and King's College. A few days into the project, the volunteers realised that disabled people are not sympathy seekers. Infact, they are far from it. What they want is respect and recognition that they do have ability. They also want opportunities to show they can manage on their own, the students said. Agnes Lam Chuen-mi of St Paul's told Young Post that she once tried to help a boy with sight problems get off a bus. 'He told me he could manage by himself. He also politely told me he would rather not be helped. 'True, they are disabled, but we should know that in every other way they are just like the rest of us. They can handle their daily life quite well most of the time.' Vincent Cheng Yuen-shan of King's said: 'Actually, we embarrass them by being too helpful. By going out of our way to help, we only draw attention to their disadvantages. We don't realise that they can handle themselves pretty well.' Before their project the students had a stint of training under social workers on how to work and communicate with the handicapped. 'We were told not to label them as weak or in need of sympathy, but rather as people who can look after themselves,' Vincent said. The main aim of the project was to create a greater sense of equality between handicapped and able-bodied people, and to make society more aware of the disabled people around us. The volunteers organised five events for the youngsters - an outing, a camp, two interest group sessions, a talent quest and a fun fair. Vincent said the talent quest gave the students a chance to discover and demonstrate their ability.