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Students learn and gain from giving

It's been a few months since the September 5 launch of the Chinese University of Hong Kong's (CUHK) "I CARE" programme, and the scheme - which bears the slogan, "Aspiration through reflection. Renewal through civility" - is going strong.  

The aim of the programme is to serve the community, and to encourage the holistic development of students. I CARE is formulated on five tenets: 'I' for integrity and moral development; 'C' for creativity and intellectual development; 'A' for appreciation of life and aesthetic development; 'R' for relationships and social development; and 'E' for energy and wellness.

"We believe that students serving society, and, particularly, the underprivileged, will be able to reflect more deeply on human values, becoming more sensitive to other people's needs," says Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, vice-chancellor and president of CUHK, and co-chairman of the steering committee for promoting personal development through social and civic engagement.

The university will set up an endowment fund of HK$100 million to support students to initiate and participate in a range of social and civic engagement programmes. These will include self-initiated action-research projects, internships in non-government organisations and university lectures and forums.

The list of activities kicked off on October 4 with a university lecture on civility by Lin Hwai-min, founder of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, whose speech was entitled, "Growing daisies in cement".

Other planned public forums will focus on animal rights, social justice and education in contemporary China.

Professor Joyce Ma, chairman of the department of social work and co-chairman of the steering community, says students are encouraged to initiate their social service projects. They can then apply for sponsorship money for implementation.

"The projects are initiated by students from different faculties. Each student can contribute in their specialised area, making the programme a platform to unite all in serving the community," says Ma.

Eliza Cheung Yee-lai, a PhD student in public health at the School of Public Health and Primary Care at CUHK's Faculty of Medicine, received HK$250,000 of sponsorship money for a public health project for ethnic minorities in Gansu province.

"It was a five-day, four-night trip involving 50 students from various faculties to a destination that was badly struck by the Sichuan earthquake. People are still living in fear," says Cheung.

"Public health students educated residents about public health, engineering students helped rebuild homes, and psychology and social work students offered counselling. It was a project that brought together the professions," she adds.

The I CARE programme will also tackle corporate social responsibility, as well as environmentally friendly projects on campus. For example, an organic farm will be set up to supply vegetables to CUHK canteens, and students will collect leftover food, turning it into compost.