Reaching Out Award
Recipients in the 2019/20 Academic Year
LUI Kai-hung Joseph
Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Sociologye
Hong Kong Shue Yan University
My impression of Nepal has always been that of a developing country steeped in tradition and known for its breathtaking mountain ranges and rich religious and cultural heritage. It holds a fascination for me and I have been longing for a chance to experience its unique lifestyle and culture as they are so different from what we have in Hong Kong. Then a friend drew my attention to an exchange programme organised by the Hong Kong Career Planning Association called “One Belt One Road Ambassador Programme”– Nepal Express. I jumped at the chance and embarked on an 11-day trip to Nepal in January this year.
I had thought of visiting Nepal before but had to abandon the idea as it was more difficult than I imagined. Underdeveloped tourism facilities and infrastructure are common complaints of tourists. Nevertheless, I was ready to take on any challenges along the way and would not let them sully my experience. On the next day of arrival, we visited the Nepal Tourism Bureau and was told by the officials there that they were running a tourism promotion campaign called “Visit Nepal 2020” to tell the story of Nepal to the world. Apart from being a popular trekking destination, Nepal has lots of attractions that are worth visiting.
In Kathmandu, we visited the Swayambhunath and Pashupatinath temples and some other famous spots, basking in the religious aura of Nepal. The most memorable experience of all was meeting the “Living Goddess” Kumari in person at the Durbar Square. She is regarded as the incarnation of the goddess Taleju, the guardian of Nepal’s royal family. By visiting temples and learning about Nepali customs, I acquired a deeper understanding of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism.
Next, we visited, among others, local universities and an elderly home and chatted with the locals. I was most enlightened by the 30-minute conversation that I had with a university professor. We talked about poverty-induced education problems. For example, children living in remote rural areas had little access to education, let alone a chance to realise their potential. Education changes lives and is the best way to lift someone out of poverty. If education is available to every Nepali child, the whole country stands to reap the benefits. The elderly home we visited had substandard health and medical facilities. We told the director what we saw, and he revealed that the elderly home was scraping by on limited resources as government support had not been adequate for years. From what I saw, the country’s infrastructural development is lagging behind the rest of the world and there are problems that have yet to be solved.
Our next stop was Pokhara, a city characterised by its picturesque landscapes and fresh air. The rugged Himalayas and the placid Phewa Lake were absolutely captivating and a far cry from the smog-filled and congested capital city Kathmandu. We visited an orphanage, bringing with us activities specially planned for the children there. Seeing their fervent participation and broad, innocent smiles, we knew that the hours of preparation spent had been worthwhile. When I asked about their dreams over dinner, a little boy showed me a toy car he built from LEGO blocks and told me that he wanted to be an inventor, with a yearning for the future brimming on his face. I hope that he will grow up happily and work hard to make his dream come true.
The journey to Nepal prompted me to re-examine my values. When I was on the road, I kept asking myself what I would do to develop this country if I were a Nepali official. Having gained a better understanding of the difficulties facing a developing country like Nepal, I realised that many things that we have been taking for granted in Hong Kong could be hard to come by in Nepal. It also dawned on me that it is a blessing to be able to live in a prosperous city such as Hong Kong, and we should lend a helping hand to those in need when we have the means to do so. In fact, we can start by caring for our neighbours. For example, there are a lot of ethnic minorities living in Hong Kong and we may do our part to help them meet their needs and integrate further into society. In addition, it is important for university students to be aware of their roles as “world citizens”. In the age of globalisation, students have the obligation to acquaint themselves with current world affairs besides putting efforts in their studies. It is often more rewarding than devouring tomes after tomes of textbooks. The Reaching Out Award set up by the Government encourages university students to step out of their “comfort zone” and explore the world. Every journey presents a wonderful opportunity for students to push their boundaries and achieve personal growth by learning about the history and culture of other countries and to manage themselves on their own. I would love to see more students seizing the opportunity offered under the award scheme and exploring a world full of unknowns.
Last Review Date: 22/07/2020