Chinese International School

RUNning to Stop the Refugee Crisis

We are delighted to share a blog written by students Luke, Ian and Catherine, from the Chinese International School, who are part of a team delivering a Global Goals project for the 2021-22 GSL Global Goals Competition.

Their project is among over 957 social action projects currently running as part of the GSL movement and we are excited to be supporting them to design and lead positive social change in their community!

An eye-opening experience that offers a glimpse into the struggles and lives of refugees living in Hong Kong.

Project Summary

Every year, hundreds and thousands of people are forced to leave their homes with hope of being protected elsewhere in the world. These people are named refugees and asylum seekers. The process for asylum seekers seeking to become legal refugees in Hong Kong is long and tenuous. On average, the process itself takes 5+ years, resulting in poor conditions for these refugees in need. Furthermore, refugees can face numerous problems such as discrimination, and have no one to fall back upon. Hence, RUN aims to assist these people in any way possible. Specifically, our goal is to help and support the refugees by encouraging them to improve their physical and mental strength, and explore their potential through sports and tutoring programs.

Especially with the rise of the global pandemic, these refugee children are suffering from the lack of resources, good health and well-being, and quality education. As the local COVID 19 situation of Hong Kong demands virtual learning, the amount of resources that are accessible becomes even more important for the convenience and success of Hong Kong students. To have resources to connect with lessons and not fall behind, communication devices such as computers and iPads are necessary to join in lessons. Having a stable WIFI connection becomes crucial to follow along lessons, and headphones become useful to hear better especially as family members need to share a space. Therefore, we strive to make the experience as students and children under the situation of the pandemic easier for these refugee children by providing useful resources they need. Besides requiring virtual learning, the pandemic has also limited chances of these refugee children to get outside and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Our service provides volunteer homework help and learning sessions once a week. For the children without homework, arts and craft, board games, and other entertainment activities will be provided to support their mental wellbeing. Prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, our team also carried out an additional session that included outdoor games and activities that benefit the physical and mental wellbeing of the refugee children. All our volunteers are yearning to have restrictions return back to normal so we can continue these exciting sport sessions.

Some of the other promotional services that have been carried out include a second-hand backpack drive at Chinese International School and a school-wide fundraiser called ‘run for RUN’, where students would find one person to sponsor 10 HKD to the charity for each kilometer they have ran. We also have began creating care packages to make online school are more comfortable and satisfying experience. We have sent out some surveys to our refugees to discover their primary material requirements. Most of the respondents have asked for more stationary, work books, snacks, and games. We have also collaborated with HKIDO, a Hong Kong-based debate organization, which has raised over 20,000 HKD for RUN which will be used to fund this project. Furthermore, we have created a website that allows the refugees to contact us if homework help is needed and leave questions on a discussion post for us to answer. This will assist them with their online learning experience, as they tend to not have much support with homework especially when they can’t reach their teachers in person. Since they do not have the access to tutoring that many students in Hong Kong have, this website will be dedicated to helping the refugees with their schoolwork. Another intended feature of this website would be the ability of the refugees to set up appointments, and so if the particular student has a need for verbal instruction, we would be able to provide that service to them.

In the near future, we are facilitating a collaboration between RUNHK and Students For Science (SFS), a Hong Kong student-founded service that provides interactive science classes consisting of lessons and experiments. This will allow the refugees to explore the fascinating field of science, and provide them with learning opportunities they would have never had the chance to experience before.

The Journey

Being a mentor at RUN HK has been a really eye-opening experience for me. We hold weekly sessions on zoom where the kids can individually get help on schoolwork or learn new things outside of the school’s curriculum. During the sessions we typically go over basic concepts in subjects like math, English and Chinese as it’s really important to establish a strong foundation before moving on to more complex concepts. In between long periods of work, we take small breaks to do fun activities like hangman or tic tac toe to help keep the kids engaged.

It’s really heart-warming to see the kids express their curiosity and love of learning every session. Although we aren’t able to have face to face interactions, the kids are just as engaged as before and are always willing to learn new things regardless of how challenging they are. For me, it’s especially rewarding when we are able to help them understand new concepts, help with school work as well as answer any other general questions that they have. Throughout this process, I feel that I’ve developed my skills as a communicator and a teacher. I’ve slowly started to improve my ability to adapt and teach with the students needs in mind. For example, teaching fractions visually and using cakes as a representation of fractions allows the kids to visualise and better understand the concept.

The Next Chapter

Through preparing for the Global Goals Competition, we have been more aware of the aims of our project and thought more about what specific impacts we can make for the refugee children in Hong Kong. Brainstorming items in the care packages and thinking about what resources to use for assisting the refugee children with homework online has encouraged us to connect the needs of the refugee to specific actions. Therefore, this project has definitely been fulfilling in that we are able to think and create specific ideas and ways to assist refugee children in their studies and in their wellbeing during this difficult time.

We definitely recommend others to engage in such projects as it will be a motivation to really understand the specific needs of the people you want to help and will encourage you to use specific goals for the actions you make. To summarize, get involved and you will be challenged to help others through specific solutions that are meaningful!