What’s the most far-flung place that you’ve ever been to? Paris? Australia? Ten students from Lok Sin Tong Yu Kan Hing Secondary School flew to the East African nation of Kenya last month to learn about the world outside Hong Kong.
The students were there from February 25 to March 3 as part of the “Hong Kong Youth New Runway” programme, organised by the Belt and Road Hong Kong Centre. The programme introduces students to countries that are a part of China’s Belt and Road economic plan.
The tour took them all over Kenya, from the port-town of Mombasa, to the capital city of Nairobi, to the wildlife reserves at the Hell’s Gate National Park. They took hundreds of photos and jotted notes down to share with their classmates back in Hong Kong what they learned on the trip.
Cherrie Lee Hoi-ching, 16, said one of the most memorable – and shocking – experiences she’ll take home from the trip was the visit she made to the Mathare slums in Nairobi. The slums, home to nearly 500,000 people, are made up of thousands of improvised buildings, with muddy paths, open sewers, and poor sanitation.
“I feel everything around us is very precious now. We have to learn how to be grateful,” Cherrie said. “We have so many resources and so much food. There are countries don’t have as much as we do, and I think we should not be wasting as much as we do.”
Vincent Leung, 16, on the other hand, said he enjoyed riding on the Madarka Express. The Express is a new modern new railway system that connects Kenya’s two largest cities, Nairobi and Mombasa. The railway, funded by Chinese loans, is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“In Hong Kong, the trains mainly run underground so there is nothing to see,” said Vincent, who recalled with fondness the giraffes he saw on his journey. “Here you can see the savannah outside the windows, and the animals walking up and down the plains.”
Students also visited several Chinese businesses currently operating in Kenya. This included a factory that is manufacturing electricity transformers, and the warehouse of an online retailer. From the Chinese founders of these companies, they learned about the business opportunities that Kenya has to offer, and heard about the challenges they faced in setting up shop in the country.
“I learned about the importance of perseverance,” said Wendy Fong Wing-yee, 17. “[The businesses] encountered a lot of difficulties along the way. There were a lot of times when they could have gone bankrupt, but they kept going and they never gave up.”
The founders said many people who worked with them would give up and leave when things got tough, but those who ended up staying until the end were the successful ones.
Cindy Mui Sze-sze, 16, said she now recognises the importance of seizing opportunities as they appear, and the need to communicate with others.
“I don’t like socialising with people, I prefer to be independent,” she said. “After this tour, I’ve learned that I need to communicate more with people to understand my weaknesses.”
Many of the students said they knew very little about Africa and Kenya before the tour. But that has changed now.
Silica Wai Sin-tung, 18, said the politeness of the locals was what stood out to her during the trip.
“They always say hello when they see you. They would come and talk to us. No one would just come up to you for a chat in Hong Kong,” she said. “Something like this makes you feel closer to your community, and it makes you feel very happy.”
Young Post's trip was sponsored by the Belt and Road Hong Kong Centre.