I first heard about Wu Zhi Qiao (Bridge to China) back when I was reading through examples for my DSE Chinese writing exam. All I knew was that an architect founded the charity and that it built bridges in villages. Very charity-based. It never occurred to me that I would become a member of this foundation, or that I would now call it family.
After being admitted to the team, I realized it was comprised of mainly civil engineering students. I started to feel incapable in the team, but soon, my knowledge in environmental technology and management indeed helped me contribute to community education and enhancement.
I was never the ‘volunteering’ person but this is something different and thought-provoking.
My role was a project assistant/photographer in the project, which allowed me to participate in every sub-project such as bridge assembly, building a toilet from scratch, primary school fun day and even meal-preparation. I got to do so many things I would never be able to do in a city like Hong Kong.
The bridge was pretty much like building a horizontal steel ladder and pushing it over to the other side of the river. During the assembly, we were ‘lucky’ enough to experience the infamous weather of Guizhou – intermittent rains and great temperature difference. Despite the pouring rain, everyone was so into their work because they knew the quicker the bridge was built, the sooner the villagers could cross the river safely. One day in, most of us got a few shades tanner because of the high UV there but none of us were unhappy about it.
After a long day of work, we would have some kind of fun activities under the starry night. We even saw a few shooting stars and the milky way!
The part which really transformed the entire experience was the people. The mainland students were usually final year students or even master students. Not only were they modest and willing to teach us, but they were also willing to give up their own enjoyment to take care of us. Even in the summer, the mornings in the village were chilly enough to make us wear a down jacket. The logistics team made us ginger soup and boiled hot bathing water before sunrise.
When we finished off everything, our bodies and minds were exhausted but each of us knew the only thing we truly felt was happiness.
I was nominated for Time Auction Star Volunteer Award for a project in which my Eco-rep team organized a series of plastic reduction activities at HKUST. To understand any environmental issue, sometimes, you really need to be that ‘activist’ because you see how people respond to the issue or not at all.
After conducting a series of research on user experience on water bottles and campus water dispensers, our team decided to organize an awareness campaign ‘Tap It Forward’. (Water Tap, get it?) We gave out stylish-looking water bottles to make the ‘bring your own bottle’ culture stylish rather than just green. In the campaign, we gave out bottles if students or staff passed a quiz on our infographics. Meanwhile, I talked to people who were simply drawn by the topic. Some shared their experience on plastic recycling in their home countries (A girl from Germany told me they recycled plastic, polystyrene, glass, bio-waste, aluminum, etc while we only recycle only 3 materials here!) which gave me a much wider perspective and clearer information than what I could find online.
I’d shout out to our faculty professors and friends who showed up to support our campaign, for which I was extremely grateful since it was a great encouragement for us to keep making a difference.