A summer adventure volunteering in Ya'an

By Hong Kong Outstanding Students Association

Last year an earthquake left many children in Ya'an without homes or schools. This summer, students from Hong Kong went to help rebuild and share some joy

By Hong Kong Outstanding Students Association |

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A different summer trip

Summer is so hot and humid that you might just want to stay in your air-conditioned room with your X-Box. But if you want a summer holiday to remember, maybe go on a volunteer trip. You'll see new places and help others at the same time.

On May 20, 2013, a magnitude-7 earthquake hit Ya'an , in Sichuan province, turning the city into rubble and junk. To help the people recover from this terrible disaster, HKOSA member Heather Au Yeung organised a service trip to Ya'an. Heather and other HKOSA members, including Gary Lor, Andrea Lee and Leanne Cheung, spent a meaningful week there. Let's take a look at some of the amazing stories from our trip.

Laughter and fun - meeting the children

We believe that people should be taught about hygiene at a young age. So several medical students on our trip prepared tutorials on basic personal cleanliness for the children. Another focus of our trip was emotional support, with the help of friends.

We expected the kids there to be very sad and unhappy, but they weren't. They were always smiling as they played around with their friends.

The funniest lesson was teaching children in Ya'an how to brush their teeth. While we were brushing, the kids showed how to make a spider shoot out of its web by spitting a mouthful of water on it. They weren't afraid of the spider, but we stayed far away from it. What a cultural difference!

The broken bridge - when there is a 'need', there is a way

On our way to visit a granny who lived in a remote village, we saw a huge gap that had been caused by the earthquake. Water was rushing through the gap, but there was no bridge for us to cross.

The local volunteer told us this was the only way to reach the woman's home.

"There's no way that I can reach the other side of the gap!" I thought. But before I could say anything, the guide grabbed my hand and pulled me to the middle of the "river".

Knowing that there was no way back, I crawled over the gravel. It was such a relief when I finally reached the other side.

When I was feeling proud of myself, I saw a villager crossing the river very quickly - while carrying two bamboo baskets over his shoulders. His ability to glide across the water was absolutely stunning.

Visit to an elderly man

One day we made our way up a steep hill to visit the home of an 80-year-old man. It's pretty incredible that he can still climb the hill at his age, but it was his house that really surprised us: it was entirely covered by trees and crops. He proudly told us that he built the house himself when he was young. He said he carried tonnes of bricks up the hill on foot. It was amazing!

We chatted with him and he was very friendly. He said he was never lonely because he had his wife, pets and neighbours for company.

Variety is the spice of life

Sichuan cuisine is famous for its spiciness, which can be off-putting for some people. On the first few days, we often asked for a glass of water to rinse the chilli peppers off our food before we ate it.

Sad that we couldn't try the local dishes, the staff encouraged us to take a small bite of the famous Sichuan peppercorns, which liven up Sichuan cuisine with their special flavour. And slowly we began to enjoy the food.

The spicy hot pot dinner we had on the last day of trip was fantastic!