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The nurturing of global citizens

Improving people’s livelihood through international Service-Learning projects


The grooming of future leaders is an important issue in today’s world. Leaders of tomorrow must possess a strong sense of social responsibility and the ability to understand social issues from a global perspective. They care and have empathy for other people and are willing to make contribution to the local, national and global communities. Through international Service-Learning (SL) projects, PolyU is nurturing civic-minded professionals and responsible global citizens with a heart to serve.

PolyU launched its first overseas SL project in Cambodia in 2010 with the support of a donation to cover the expenses of the trip, equipment and materials. Since then, more projects of this kind have been carried out in underdeveloped countries every year.  Through international SL, students gain a deeper understanding of how other people live and the challenges they face every day such as the lack of clean water, electricity and healthcare facilities.  SL goes well beyond ordinary community service, it teaches students the right approach to do volunteer work, to think from the perspective of the recipients, to appreciate different cultures and to understand the history of different places and countries.

Participating students are inspired to make use of their professional knowledge and skills to help those in need, and to come up with innovative ideas to meet societal needs in a global context. Some have installed computer laboratories or STEM playgrounds to enhance the learning of children and adolescents; others have built water filtration systems, promoted sustainable community practices or provided impactful healthcare solutions.


In 2018, as many as 277 students reaped the benefits of helping others in Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Rwanda, as a requirement of the credit-bearing SL subjects they were taking. There were also three self-initiated teams formed by 30 students who volunteered to travel to Cambodia and Vietnam. Dr Stephen Chan, Head of PolyU’s Office of Service-Learning, applauded the passion and empathy shown by student participants. He further explained why these services are especially meaningful in Cambodia.

“The infrastructure is very underdeveloped; there are many people that are without electricity, and even when electricity is available it can be very expensive.”

To address these difficulties, since 2016, students from the Department of Computing and the Department of Electrical Engineering have partnered with Cambodia’s Royal University of Phnom Penh and a local NGO to improve living standards for rural villagers in Kampong Speu province, Cambodia. In 2016 and 2017, they installed a remarkable 14 solar-charging stations and wired more than 100 houses with LED lights and USB chargers.

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Just as important as undertaking these projects is ensuring their sustainability. During their solar energy projects in Cambodia, Myanmar and Rwanda, PolyU students provided manuals and training workshops for young villagers and students from partner universities. Local people now possess the practical skills and knowledge required to regularly maintain and repair the systems, and even to install them on their own, benefiting even more villagers.

When carrying out SL, Mak Min-yi, a student who took part in SL project in Rwanda in 2018, said wisely,

There are no excuses to say that one has no ability to help others. Anyone can be a giver and anyone can be a receiver.

Certainly, the resounding success of these international SL projects owes much to the contributions of “givers”: benefactors who share PolyU’s belief in the power of SL to nurture graduates with the altruism, leadership skills and global vision needed to make the world a better place. To be part of this inspirational social mission, you can make a gift now.


Publishing date: December 2019

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