THE children looked no different from their student visitors from Kowloon Wah Yan College and Maryknoll Convent School. That was why the students were there - because these children need friends just as normal people do - even though they are profoundly deaf. While enjoying their own summer holidays, the 40 students from the two schools decided to organise a social service project to both bring joy and develop the potential of some 25 seven to 15-year-old deaf children at the Suen Mei Speech and Hearing Centre. The programme of activities began with an afternoon of games during which the children were introduced to the student volunteers in a fun atmosphere. ''We have organised other activities as well, such as beach cleaning, a visit to a fire rescue boat, a variety show in which the children will be performing themselves, and a visit to an elders' home,'' said sixth-former Lai Chun-Hung of Wah Yan College,president of the organising committee. In order to help the children see they can serve the community instead of just being served, they will be given an opportunity to perform for the elderly. ''We want to help them build up their confidence and not let their disability block them from being socially active,'' Chun-hung said. The visit was in fact the seventh such occasion enjoyed by one of the children, 14 year-old Alfred Wong. ''In the activities, I learn to play a lot of games and meet a lot of friends,'' Alfred said. ''I also have a chance to serve others, which makes me feel useful. That's why I keep coming back.'' The beneficial part is that the brothers and sisters of the children with hearing problems also can participate. This helps to strengthen the family bond and promotes understanding within the family even when one of the members is deaf. Wan Chi-Ying, nine, said the activities have enabled her to understand her 11-year-old brother Wan Kin-yip better. Kin-yip has had hearing problems since he was three. ''I have no problem playing with my brother,'' piped Chi-ying. This is exactly what Mrs Bessie Pang, director of the centre, wants to see. ''The use of sign language tends to isolate the deaf children because the 'language' can be understood by only a few,'' Mrs Pang said. ''However, training these children to learn lip-reading and speech by using whatever little hearing ability they have at an early stage will help them to converse with the people around.'' The centre also aims to help the children to attend normal schools after five years of speech and hearing training. The success rate of sending these deaf children back to normal schools is 97 per cent. With the help of such warm-hearted people as last week's student visitors, the theme ''physical handicap does not mean isolation'' becomes a reality.