The group from Chinese University of Hong Kong's (CUHK) S.H. Ho College made a 14-day trip in collaboration with the Watoto Child Care Ministries, a non-governmental organisation based in Uganda. They were acting as volunteers for a programme that supports orphans and women in the war-torn nation.
There have been civil wars in Uganda since the 1980s. Poverty and famine are commonplace as a result of a low level of economic development. About four per cent of the 30-million-strong population live with HIV and among them more than 10 per cent are children. In 2009, more than a million children were orphaned.
In keeping with Watoto's slogan "Raising Future Leaders", the objective of the trip was for the students to serve, care for and build up Uganda by volunteering at various Watoto-backed facilities. Watoto believes the way to help Uganda is to empower its people to help themselves. It has set up baby centres, "Living Hope" centres where widows, unwed mothers, women with Aids and disabled women are accommodated, and children's villages for orphans that have lost their parents to war or Aids. At each children's village, eight children are taken care of by a foster mother - usually a local widow - and are also educated.
Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, CUHK's vice-chancellor, says: "Life in Uganda is very different from Hong Kong. The water runs out before you can take a shower, electricity cuts out at dinner time and the local cuisine is mashed banana. You don't take anything for granted."
The CUHK group flew to Kampala, the capital of Uganda, then travelled north to visit the facilities supported by Watoto. The students helped locals to build a brick dormitory for students in one of the children's villages.
Five students from CUHK's faculty of medicine had the chance to learn how to perform medical check-ups on the locals under Sung's guidance.
Sharon Tsang, a second-year medical student, gave her first-ever consultation to a child in one of the villages. "Health is a gift," she says. "The trip has strengthened my determination to become a doctor and offer the gift to those in need."
While their friends provided medical assistance, students from the faculty of business administration offered management training to help improve standards of local products.
When they were not working, the Hong Kong students played football, drew pictures and made balloon figures with children from the villages. The positive attitude of the children deeply moved the students. "I have started to treasure everything around me more," says Andy Cheung, a second-year pharmacy student.
Sung says CUHK and Watoto have formed a long-term partnership and more students will travel there next year.
Learn more at www.watoto.hk