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Service Learning Programme

12 - 20 Nov 2016

Coastal Environment

4E Lam Lok Yin

The time it takes for you, dear readers, to reach the full stop at the end of this sentence, a ton of plastic would have been dumped into the ocean. It would not completely decompose until the year 2466. Worse still, there is a Texas-sized pile of trash floating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, luring the starving turtles to devour as they would mistake plastic bags for jellyfish.

In our lovely Hong Kong, we have the infamous “Lap Sap Wan”, a bay reeking of six-foot deep rotting rubbish. Unfortunately, “Lap Sap Wan” is not the only beach that is littered with litter. During the week, we visited four beaches, all of which had been befouled by human activity. It was horrifying to see rows upon rows of mangroves that were strewn with ramen wrappers, drinking straws, and even the occasional prophylactic. Although the cleanup work was menial and monotonous, the thought of protecting the environment drove us on. I believe everyone was glad to have helped in some way, be it picking up macro-litter, separating micro-litter from sand, creating a piece of art from rubbish, or recording different organisms in the area.

The five-day coastal environment programme has been an eye-opener. We realised in this alarming situation: millions of marine creatures killed, their habitats destroyed, their species on the brink of extinction – all because of human selfishness. I hope more people will be aware of this problem and help to reduce the amount of litter in nature.

4C Lee Hiu Yau

At first, I thought it was just beach cleaning… Well, we cleaned up the beaches, but we also did micro- and macro-litter survey, creativity work and ecological survey. We learnt that there are a lot of macro-litter on the beach, but the amount of micro-litter is even larger, yet mostly neglected. Micro-litter such as tiny pieces of plastic and fibres will be ingested by marine animals, affecting the marine ecosystem. Chemicals in micro-plastics will also poison marine life, and ultimately affect humans as we eat seafood.

Macro-litter survey was another highlight. Macro-litter affects not only marine life, but also life on land. We saw a lot of mangroves tangled with plastic strips. We filled rubbish bags with plastic material and were really shocked by the amount.

It was a meaningful experience as  we made an effort to help save the lives of marine creatures.

4B Ng Yan Wah

We conducted surveys on ecological, micro- and macrolitter, and helped clean up rubbish left on the shores. I came to realise the devastating problem of marine pollution that was killing seaweed and marine animals.

Marine rubbish is often washed up onshore due to currents around the globe, creating big piles of rubbish on remote beaches. Plastic items and small pieces of glass are often ingested by fish and turtles as food which kill them. This affects the marine ecosystem and eventually affects us, humans.

These scenes are very common in Hong Kong, which I find uncomfortable and disturbing. Everyone should take part in cleaning up beaches to save the marine ecosystem and help protect marine creatures. The government should take the initiative to educate the public about marine conservation and to promote an environmentally friendly lifestyle to reduce waste and alleviate marine pollution.

SAHK

4G Wan Man Lau

I worked as a volunteer at the Chai Wan workshop of SAHK (formerly known as “The Spastics Association of Hong Kong”), a rehabilitation organisation for the physically or mentally challenged who suffer from neurological impairments such as autism, developmental delay and specific learning difficulties. It is a sheltered workshop for disabled people, giving them a source of income.

I think the existence of these shelters is largely due to the discrimination problems in Hong Kong. Many of the workers there indeed have an average IQ and could think normally like we do. However, companies are generally reluctant to hire them due to their appearances. These sheltered workshops seem the only choice for them, doing tedious jobs like packaging disposable cutlery into plastic bags or putting sales letters into envelopes. These jobs would not sound appealing to us, so why them? The situation necessitates a call for change – people should change and dispel prejudices; they should also change their attitude and learn to respect differences.

The workers at SAHK are all good-natured people, I truly had a great time there. By great I didn’t mean the clichéridden sharing like “finding happiness in helping others”, but the self-discovery I made and the reflection I had on our society.