They were once regarded as lacking in confidence with poor English skills and little hope of improvement. But after five weeks on a special programme, the change has been astounding. Volunteer teachers and pupils on the Summerbridge Programme Hong Kong told Young Post how impressed they were with the scheme which let 'students teach students'. The free programme enables youngsters to improve their English- language skills by building up their confidence in a five-week period. Thanks to a $900,000 donation from Goldman Sachs, one of Hong Kong's leading financial institutions, the programme will now be expanded to benefit more youngsters. Becky Chan Mung-yu, 18, of SKH Li Ping Secondary School, said the programme not only encouraged them to speak English, but helped them in other ways. 'I hardly spoke a word in English at first. Teachers were patient and no one would laugh or look down on you if you said something wrong. Our relationship with teachers was built on trust and friendship.' Jessica To Kit-man, 15, a Form Three pupil at SKH Kei Hau Secondary School, said: 'In the past, I felt ashamed to ask [a question] in class. 'But teachers encouraged me and now I know that learning by mistakes is the only way to improve.' Like other pupils in the programme, Kit-man came from a background where - until they found Summerbridge - there were few opportunities to improve their English. Supervised by a board of principals and community leaders, Summerbridge has been operating in Hong Kong for six years. Teachers are student volunteers from local universities, international schools and overseas universities. Innovative methods which arouse pupils' interest in learning and encourage them to participate are used. Activities such as drama, music and sports are also featured. Jackie Choy King-lam, 20, a first- year student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was a volunteer teacher on the programme. 'Thinking in a positive way and feeling responsible are some of the things I've learned from pupils,' Mr Choy said. 'You can't show pessimism towards pupils. You have to bear in mind all the time that you are being an example for them. 'Some pupils' English standards were very bad . . . many times I nearly gave up, but the motive came back again every time I walked into a classroom and saw their eyes full of anxiety. They were really willing to learn and improve.' Carol Li Chau-ha was a pupil on a previous programme, but volunteered as a teacher last summer. 'It's worth passing my knowledge on to other pupils who need help . . . no one could understand pupils better than us,' said Chau-ha, a Form Six student at Kowloon True Light Middle School.