Alice Chow Kin-tak woke up one morning last October and decided to change her life. It was a decision that would take her from a civil engineering job in Hong Kong to feeding the hungry residents of a town in war-ravaged northern Afghanistan. Ms Chow returned to Hong Kong last month after a six-month stint in the town of Maimana with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF). She decided to join MSF about five months after attending a recruitment seminar.'I felt tired of work and wanted to take other challenges and see the outside world,' she said. 'I want to help those in need.' Ms Chow, whose work has included helping with the construction of Chek Lap Kok airport and numerous Hong Kong skyscrapers, asked for a year's unpaid leave from her company and applied for MSF. After passing a test and interview, she went on a two-week training course in Belgium and Norway in November. In January she received her first mission - as a nutritional logistician in charge of food distribution and construction projects in Maimana. Hers was the only east Asian face in the small town. 'I arrived and I didn't know whether it was destroyed by war or if it was just poor,' she said. 'There are no roads and when it rained we had to clear the mud for our car to pass. And we had only five hours of electricity a day.' She spent 35 to 40 hours every week on the road servicing five food centres, where she supervised food distribution to malnourished woman and children. 'In fact, we had to do everything to help the local people,' Ms Chow said. She taught them how to build solid houses, bunkers and guard houses with her engineering skills and advised local women how to be healthy and feed their children. 'Women are in poor conditions without sufficient nutrition or social status. They eat bread and drink tea every day. So do their children,' she said. She taught them how to complement their meagre diet with cheap food such as beans. Several days before she left, Ms Chow saw a child killed by a landmine that left several others seriously wounded. Ms Chow's parents were worried but safety was not Ms Chow's overriding concern. 'There's danger everywhere, even in Hong Kong. You hear about shootings on the street in Hong Kong,' she said. 'We keep regular contact with other NGOs and inform each other if there's danger.' Fighting in the region in April forced MSF to temporarily evacuate from Maimana. She said that despite seeing so much sadness in Afghanistan, she had become more optimistic about life. 'I think we are lucky that we can receive education and do what we like with knowledge,' she said. 'It's been hard for Hong Kong people recently, but I think we shouldn't complain but take up the challenge and overcome difficulties.' Ms Chow leaves for Ethiopia next week for another three-month mission.