By the indoor basketball court at Harbour City, a bunch of students is chatting near four colourful benches.
The benches look a little out of place in a shopping mall; their brightly painted designs would be more fitting in a school playground.
"We got paint all over our bodies when we painted these four benches," says one of the students, Carmen Fong Ka-man.
The students are from Lok Sin Tong Ku Chiu Man Secondary School, one of the city's 30 schools which have recently taken part in the [email protected] campaign, jointly organised by Po Leung Kuk and The Hong Kong Institute of Education.
Launched in July, the campaign challenges students to take unwanted tools and equipment from their school, and then, with a touch of creativity, give them a makeover. Some of the resulting pieces have recently been on display at Harbour City.
"Through this campaign, we want to raise students' awareness of the importance of environmental protection," says Eric Cheng Kam-chung, chairman of Po Leung Kuk. "We also want to let the students know art and creativity are two fundamentally important elements in society."
Taking up the challenge, Carmen and her schoolmates decided to get their creative juices flowing by adding some spark to four worn-out benches abandoned at their school.
"Since we had four benches, we painted them to match the colour of each of our four houses," she says. "We also wanted to do something more lively. So we decided to decorate the benches with the mascot of each house."
After a few months of planning and painting, the four benches - in yellow, red, blue and green - look more like stylish new benches than abandoned ones. But creating the benches was no easy task.
"It was easy when we first drafted them on paper. But to transfer our designs onto the benches was a completely different story," Carmen says.
First, the students had to deal with the transitions, which are gaps on the back of the bench. It was tricky keeping the patterns consistent while also covering up the gaps.
"We also had to turn a cartoonish draft into something with more of an American comic influence, with greater realism," says Carmen. "This is something that we had never done before."
Stains on the students' clothes showed that this was also messy work. But Carmen says they came up with a way to salvage ruined clothing.
"We got paint all over our black leather shoes every time we painted," she says. "So some of us painted over them completely. We even used paint to create colourful wallets."
And their efforts paid off in the end. At the mall, the group is approached by more students, interested in checking out the benches. They are already considering their next assignment.
"We will be working on two more benches soon," Carmen says. "This time round, we'll be helping the Scouts out."