Dean's Message
Fall 2013  No.24
We Love Community Service
Four School of Engineering students share their views on the difference that helping others has made to their own lives
Ryan Hong Yee Kow
BEng, Civil and Structural Engineering (2013)
Roy To Community Service Awardee
My passion is helping people and this takes many forms: helping new students settle into School of Engineering life by serving as a peer mentor; establishing a community-based organization called – we held our first Y-Talk event in April with student speakers at HKUST; and setting up a Student Chapter of the Malaysian Association of Hong Kong for Malaysians studying in Hong Kong like me.
Last summer, I went to Myanmar with my two best friends, spending one month teaching English to secondary school students, university students, and graduates in the northern city of Myitkyina. As we organized the service trip ourselves, we first had to find sponsorship, locate books to take and raise donations. On arrival, we needed to travel from the south of Myanmar to Myitkyina in the north, a journey that took 10 hours by bus and 24 hours on a 1920s-style train! 
My Myanmar visit put my engineering studies in an interesting new light. Before going, I had seen them mainly from a technical perspective and wondered how useful my skills would be in teaching English. Afterwards, I took a wider view, as it was clear that with my engineering mindset, I could understand my students’ problems and design ways to assist their learning. Precision, problem solving and finding solutions are all key aspects of being an engineer and can easily be applied to other situations. 
I am sure my recent membership of ASEAN Youth Volunteers Network and Engineers Without Borders will expand my vision further. Indeed, for me, community service has no boundaries. The most important thing is serve wholeheartedly and use engineering to find solutions.
The Roy To Community Service Award recognizes HKUST students who have made an exceptional contribution to community service. Only one undergraduate or postgraduate student is selected for the award each year.
Samantha Wing Man Kong
BEng, Chemical and Environmental Engineering (2014)
HKUST Alumni Endowment Fund Service Awardee
The turning point for me was going abroad to high school in Malaysia. During that time, I learned to be independent and became involved in various service activities in order to meet new friends and adapt to my new home. This enhanced my communication skills and interaction with people. I started to become a more outgoing and cheerful person, and curious about different cultures and countries. 
Since joining HKUST, I have participated in student activities, serving as a head student ambassador for the University and a peer mentor in the School of Engineering. Joining the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge with two School of Business and Management teammates – and winning! – was another great experience. Given Hong Kong's aging population, we came up with the idea of Eldpathy (empathy for the elderly). Participants find out what life is like for people in their 70s by donning a specially designed suit and undertaking a series of challenges that show them the difficulties faced by elderly people. We also provide a platform for participants to join voluntary services to help seniors.
I am not only interested in local issues, but also took part in the G20 Youth Summit in Russia in April, giving me a way to discuss global issues with people from around the world. Short exchanges involving entrepreneurship, leadership, and voluntary services in the US, Singapore, Hangzhou, Beijing and Xi'an have also broadened my outlook.
Through community service, I have learned to be more open-minded and listen to different opinions. Long-lasting friendships can also be developed when people share the same goals and vision to improve the lives of others.
Samantha was one of the first three students honored by the HKUST Alumni Endowment Fund Service Award, launched in 2012/13 to recognize students who have demonstrated strong commitment and leadership in volunteer services and have a proven track record in contributing to the community.
Building Homes, Building Understanding
Xiaojun Yu, MPhil, and To Hung Tsui, BEng, both Civil and Environmental Engineering, had rewarding community service experiences overseas in different ways when they became volunteers for the charity Habitat for Humanity and spent several days building houses in Nepal. 
"Before this trip, Nepal was just a small country on the map to me. After, it became very special," explained Xiaojun. "I spent my four days there carrying, chopping, weaving and shoveling. We talked to local people, and worked and ate like locals. 
"It all had a tremendous impact. I have become better at caring about others, appreciating others' work and, above all, understanding how people's different situation and surroundings affect them," he said. "Even though I am a Civil Engineering postgraduate student, this was my first experience of working on a construction site and I really enjoyed building the house. The feeling of helping others and making their wish come true was wonderful, and there was a smile on every face when we finally dedicated the house to the local village. I have promised myself another visit to Nepal in the future."
For To Hung, the trip helped to change his worldview. "Prior to going to Nepal, my community service had been locally based. Now I think I will join more activities outside Hong Kong. I also value what I have in Hong Kong much more." 
The two students were supported by the School of Engineering's Center for Global & Community Engagement, which encourages students to engage in community service in different parts of the world.