A Harrow Hong Kong group enjoyed a valuable and memorable cultural experience over the October half term, learning about life in the Yao community in southern China’s Guangdong Province.
Together with the Hong Kong-based Go2Serve Foundation, the Year 6-9 group of thirteen pupils, led by Mrs. Eva Cliffe, worked at a sustainable farming project at a seven-acre orchard and vegetable garden, hiked to remote mountain-top villages and had the opportunity to engage with and learn about the Yao way of life.
The pupils learned about and assisted with economically and environmentally sustainable farming initiatives, prepared and distributed care packages for the elderly, prepared local food and were treated to a traditional music and dance performance, complete with a ‘best dressed’ competition in Yao costume.
The group also had to get to grips with camping, some arduous trekking and the general challenges of outdoor living, necessitating determination, perseverance and some fantastic teamwork.
A key part of the learning from the visit was the development of pupils’ ‘Seed Projects’ – small projects which aim to address local issues using local resources, with the ‘seeds’ able to be grown further by the local people themselves.
The group’s ideas included:
1. ‘Sleep Well’ – making small bags of dried locally grown osmanthus blossoms as aids for sleeping, with the bags in the designs of pigs or chickens;
2. ‘Improving the Hiking Trail’ – aiming to make hiking up the trail and camping more attractive for visitors, including donkeys to carry equipment, locals to sell drinks and local foods, improving the trail path, and more facilities at the camping area;
3. ‘HC 4 Yao’ (Health Care for Yao) – educating locals in health/medical issues, in particular hygiene, dental health and regular exercise.
“All groups had thought really carefully about what they had observed in the area and what could be done to improve those issues, and they presented their ‘Seed Projects’ extremely well,” explained Mrs. Cliffe.
“Every single pupil spoke during the presentations, without reading off a script, and each group answered questions from others. Their ideas generated a lot of discussion and various points about how development partnerships can work, or what problems there might be, and I hope that the pupils learned a lot about how people can make a difference.”
“It was a very active week and the pupils learned a lot about themselves, including how to get on with each other and how they react to and overcome challenges,” Mrs. Cliffe continued.
“They served at a valuable community project, witnessed how different others’ lives can be, really thought about the issues that have to be considered if they want to help a community, and hopefully recognised the generosity of spirit of people like Tim and Rosa Obendorf [Go2Serve Foundation] who go to live and work alongside such communities.”