Local universities and schools promote civic engagement to instil students with a sense of social responsibility and skills such as leadership, teamwork and problem solving. Service-learning, an important component of civic engagement, has recently become more and more popular, and is now considered one of the most effective educational methods, enabling students to think, judge, care and act responsibly within society.
Service-learning enables students to make use of the knowledge learned in the classroom and life, and apply them to serve the community. Service-learning also stresses the importance of self-reflection and personal learning.
In 2006, the Office of Service-Learning was established at Lingnan University to offer learning opportunities for students through service provision. Under the guidance of course instructors and service agencies, students can develop positive attitudes and concrete skills, and integrate their knowledge through participation in service-learning programmes. Students also have the chance to apply for funding in order to initiate their own service-learning project.
In 2011, I found the ‘I Care for Children Program’ project with my fellow students to help disabled and orphaned children in Changsha, China. We worked with the International China Concern (ICC) which aims to create better lives for disabled and abandoned children in China. We organised educational summer camp for ICC, reviewing and developing the existing and future curriculum for the teachers. Normally, we observe and study the needs of the clients and the service agency. Based on their needs and our observation, we develop tailor-made a service programme for the clients with the assistance from the service agency. In addition, every year, we also raise funds to support the necessary costs of the service agency for the clients.
The project emphasizes the combination of students’ academic study with practical service experiences and also focuses on the process of critical thinking and self-reflection. With the help of service-learning coordinators and community partners, students are inspired to think, research and come up with plans to address social issues and the needs of their communities.