Kindness against all odds

Kindness against all odds

When a rock band visited Zimbabwe, their preconceptions of Africa were proved wrong.

The first time Mau Hou-cheong, singer of local band RubberBand, set foot in Africa, he freely admits he was more than a little worried.

"I am one of those people who like to research a destination before I travel there. I knew Africa is infamous for deadly diseases, and my friends were telling me the same thing. I became extremely cautious," says Mau, who recently visited Zimbabwe with his band mates Lai Man-wang, Lee Siu-wai and Clem Fung Ting-ching, as well as local radio DJ Danny So Yiu-chung.

The group was representing Hong Kong as ambassadors for World Vision, a charity which fights poverty around the world. They travelled to Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, where they visited local families.

As soon as Mau and his friends arrived, their attitudes were put to the test. They were greeted by a group of children who were smiling, but looking a little ill, with fluid running from their noses. It was at this point that a dark thought sprung into Mau's mind.

"I suddenly remembered what my friends had told me. They said to be extra careful when coming into contact with kids that look [sick]," he says.

At first, the musician was hesitant to shake the children's hands. But Mau was so moved by their plight, his emotions got the better of him.

"I felt really guilty for having that thought. That was the first day, but I already had tears streaming down my face," he says.

Fortunately, Mau overcame his fears and was soon greeting the children.

It is perhaps understandable that he would be so concerned. The living conditions of the places the group visited - including a primary school, a farm, a clinic and some homes - were appalling. With food in short supply, hygiene is not a top priority.

Zimbabwe's poverty crisis is the result of several factors, particularly the more than 30 years of corrupt rule by President Robert Mugabe. The situation was made worse by the country's participation in the Second Congo War between 1998 and 2003. In 2012, Zimbabwe's gross domestic product ranked 135 out of 193 countries in the world, according to the United Nations.

But within this poverty-stricken nation, true acts of kindness can still be found.

RubberBand drummer Lai was particularly touched by two children. After giving the pair a chocolate bar, Lai watched as they ran off to share it with their father.

"The father took a bite and wrapped it up. He wanted to save it for them for later," recalls Lai.

The group later discovered that since food is so scarce, the father would often sleep in late each day and skip a meal, just so his children would have a little more food to eat.

The visitors were moved by the generosity of the locals, who never hesitated to share what they had.

It's a far cry from RubberBand's experiences in Hong Kong. In fact, the band once wrote a song about spoiled city dwellers, who complain about trivial things such as running out of soft drinks.

Now back home, the band can't stop thinking about how lucky they are. "Getting to live in such a developed city is [nothing to be ashamed of]," says Lai. "But Hong Kong youngsters need to realise how lucky they are, show concern and step up for those in need."

A good place to start would be by signing up for World Vision's Famine 30 this year, to be held on April 12-13. Participants will go without food for 30 hours to raise money and awareness to fight global hunger.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Kindness against all odds

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