Have you ever had the opportunity to travel to an underdeveloped country and learn more about the people living there?
This summer, 34 Unicef Hong Kong Young Envoys, including myself, ventured to the mainland’s Yunnan province to gain a better understanding of the locals’ living conditions, and learn about the different ways Unicef has been helping them.
We visited villages, schools, and hospitals across the southwestern province, in cities including Yulong, Lijiang, and Judian, and interviewed families in the agriculture sector.
One of the participants, Celeste Chan, said her most memorable experience was visiting a remote local kindergarten, even though the students did not fully understand her as they spoke a different dialect.
“I was pleased to see [underprivileged] children have the chance to learn Mandarin and communicate with the outside world,” said the 16-year-old.
Unicef and the Yunnan government’s development aid also helped organise the repair of the kindergarten and the replacement of the school’s furniture and teaching tools, which were severely damaged by a recent flood, Celeste added. “We were happy to know that the children could [now] learn in a better school environment.”
By visiting the beneficiaries of Unicef’s social programmes, the Young Envoys also gained a more thorough understanding of how physical, material and medical assistance could improve the well-being and living conditions of the locals there.
For instance, Unicef’s Conditional Cash Transfer Programme allows families with young children to earn money after completing tasks, such as going to regular hospital check-ups and giving children vaccination, while its Social Development Programme for the Poor Areas alleviates poverty and achieves broader human development goals by providing small loans to women in poor villages.
The vast outreach and positive impact achieved by these programmes were not something that Celeste had expected before the trip, she admitted. “Yunnan is a big province with 47 million people, which is six times than the population in Hong Kong … So I imagined it would be hard to keep an eye on all service receivers and ensure that the programmes were [actually helping] each individual family in the mountainous areas,” she said.
Having now witnessed the “great milestone” achieved by the charity organisation to enhance people’s quality of life, Celeste is optimistic that their living conditions “would be even better in the future”.
The Young Envoys were also given the chance to visit a family’s farmhouse, where I was inspired by the residents’ attitude towards life. Their house decorations were very simple, and I noticed they used solar panels to provide their electricity. They were very friendly, and offered us meat, which is usually reserved for special occasions.
The children were all incredibly eager to go to school, despite having to walk three hours back and forth every day. Their lives seem to blend in with the beauty of nature, and they strive to live life to the fullest and get the most out of it.
Countries all over the world are all working very hard to uplift the standard of living in underdeveloped areas. I believe if we all can lend a hand and spend some time and effort creating positive change, more people around the world could have a better education and live a better life.