Service Summit 2014: Initiating a Path Towards Adulthood

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Taking Humanities I in Action is a journey. From day one students are confronted with issues that they find not only mentally and emotionally challenging, but even personally troubling.  Yet we take some comfort in Krishnimurti’s well-known, if startling, observation, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” The dis-equilibrium that we feel is an honest and compassionate reaction to the current state of the planet.

After studying a range of topics during first semester, such as chocolate slavery, the refugee crisis, genocide, and orphans in China, we as teachers face the vital task of helping students find their balance. During second semester, we will continue to study issues related to globalization, the environment, and technology, which will raise additional deep concerns about our world, including the health of Mother Earth herself. How do we find some sense of well being in such a world?

We teachers of Humanities I in Action find inspiration in the words of Bill Plotkin, who wrote in his book Soulcraft: “My utter conviction [is] that what humanity most needs now is a contemporary path of initiation into soulful adulthood” (25-26). Much of modern society has lost the art of initiating young people into meaningful adult identity. We as teachers feel that Humanities I in Action can serve as an initiation of young people into the problems of our global present, and allow them to create possibilities for our global future.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 8.36.11 PMJoseph Campbell’s “Heroic Cycle” continues to be a useful guide in leading our students through the course. If students’ call to adventure was signing up for Humanities I in Action, which introduced them to the special world of global need, we have found that students’ biggest identity question during the second semester is, “Can I make a difference?” Campbell’s cycle suggests that successfully navigating their Humanities I in Action journey necessitates that each student find some elixir – a healing balm or deep insight – that moves the world, even in some small way, towards health and wholeness.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 4.33.27 PMBelieving that entry into adulthood requires the power to enact positive change, we ask students in their “Elixir Project” to find some way, be it big or small, to make a difference in themselves, their school community, or the greater community. The Elixir Project is our curricular path to help students successfully complete their 9th grade year in Humanities I I Action.

Every year we hold a Service Summit at the beginning of second semester to kick off our Elixir Project. The 2014 Service Summit, held on January 11th at HKIS, was a successful start to this year’s project. Highlights of the Summit this year include:

  1. More than 90 Humanities I in Action students attended, all looking to find an Elixir Project which in some way will contribute to making the world a better place.
  2. Following the inspiring keynote 2014-01-11 03.30.55delivered by Rob and JP of “Me to We,” 17 groups presented about a variety causes: hunger in Hong Kong, human trafficking, scholarship programs in China, recycling, reducing one’s carbon footprint, teaching English in Hong Kong, and many more.
  3. Five of the 17 breakout sessions were led by alumni who continue to pursue social change initiatives beyond their high school years.
  4. The vast majority of the presenters were current 10-12th grade HKIS students who wanted to share with this year’s freshmen what they did for their 9the grade project or how they taken worthwhile projects since grade 9.  Students talking to students.
  5. For the first time, middle schools students2014-01-11 02.58.49 from HKIS joined with their counterparts at our sister schools, Concordia-Hanoi and Concordia-Shanghai, to participate in a three-day service leadership retreat in Hong Kong. On the third day the three schools participated in a morning leadership workshop with the “Me to We” facilitators, and then joined the Service Summit in the afternoon.  (*Read a fuller description of their trip at the end of the entry.)

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Students from Concordia-Shanghai, Concordia-Hanoi, and HKIS gathered together for a 3-day service leadership experience and mini-conference. This is the first time that these three sister schools, all institutional members of the Asia Lutheran Education Association (ALEA), held an extended joint service leadership training program.

List of Workshops

Presentations by representatives of off-campus organizations

1.     Rob & JP – Me to We

Come meet the Me to We speakers and talk to them about your ideas for making a difference. These sessions will be informal times to talk with them and brainstorm your ideas.

2014-01-11 06.18.592.     Gabrielle Kirstein – Feeding Hong Kong

Feeding Hong Kong is a Hong Kong registered charity with a mission to fight hunger in the city and reduce the amount of quality food being sent to our landfills. Each day, we collect high quality food that would otherwise be thrown away, sort and store it, and then redistribute it to a network of welfare organisations, who in turn feed thousands of people in need. We also promote healthy eating and nutritional education through our Chefs in the Community and Edible Gardens programmes. If you’re interested in learning more about the issues of hunger, poverty and food waste in Hong Kong and are keen to find out how you can make a difference, come and listen to Executive Director, Gabrielle Kirstein talk about what Feeding Hong Kong do, why they do it and how you can get involved.

2013-01-12 07.06.143.     Alice Choo – Tzu Chi Recycling

Are you the kind of person that wants to make a difference right away? Then come to this session to see how you can get involved with a recycling center in the Tai Koo Shing area. You can help recycle old radios, cassette tapes, and many other tech throw-aways. And then there are the plastic bottles. Amazingly, it only takes 70 recycled bottles to make a cozy, soft beautiful blanket that can be given away to refugees or others in need!

Presentations by HKIS students

4.     Michele Lau & Ivy Tse –  Kids4Kids

You are never too young to make a difference. At Kids4Kids, we empower youths to give back through a host of dynamic activities such as reading, performing, socializing, craft-making, and film-editing. It’s a chance to do something fun and meaningful while reaching out to underpriviledged children in the local community.  As long as you have a genuine passion for service, we have a place for you.”

2014-01-11 06.20.195.     Alex Toth – Running to Stop the Traffik

“Human Trafficking is one of the world’s major issues, with women and children being trafficked throughout India, Nepal, and other Asia countries so close to home for all of us. Alexander Toth will help shed some light on this issue and tell about his experience as an executive with the Hong Kong based charity, Running to Stop the Traffik (RTST). RTST is an organisation run by students for students in the fight to combat the scourge of human trafficking.”

2014-01-11 06.41.176.     Angela Fan, Jamie Shih, & Nicola Ho – Ember Girls scholarships

EMBER (previously named CLC), founded in 2006 by three then-seniors at HKIS, is a student-led initiative which seeks to provide high school and university scholarship for a group of underprivileged female students in rural Guangdong, China. It is EMBER’s belief that by sponsoring one girl and giving her the resources to succeed that it will not only change her life, but also impact the lives of her family and the larger community around her. In 2011, EMBER continues to expand, and started to invite students from HKIS as well as other schools in Hong Kong to join our initiative as we strongly believe that this will serve as an invaluable opportunity for us to spread the word and to train students to become leaders who can make a difference in the world.

7.     Amar Bhardwaj – Stanley Recycling

Every year, 6.4 million tons of waste are added to Hong Kong’s landfills. As a result, they are nearly full, but glass recycling serves to reduce the flow of waste. Amar will share his experience of doing glass recycling for his elixir project and tell how you can get involved for yours.

8.    Jon Yeung – Lifestyle

Every one of us wishes to change – ourselves or the world – but very rarely does change succeed. Why is this the case? Through this presentation, I will be sharing a personal story of change, where I became an environmentalist, as a result of what I learnt in Humanities I in Action. Through this story, I hope to share what I have learnt, inspire others to embark on change, and delve into what change really is.

2014-01-11 06.28.119.     Ray Marangelo – Lifestyle

Meditation, yoga and mindfulness are quickly becoming a trends in the modern world, and vegetarian diet options are the norm on menus instead of the exception.  Why are more people feeling the desire to quiet their minds, acquire self-knowledge and eat in a way that is less harmful to themselves and the world around them?  Come share a few moments of mindfulness, meditation, yoga and a discussion about how to lead a life that will lead to a higher state of happiness for you and those around you.

2014-01-11 07.18.1810.     Vow of Silence by MS students  – Inspiration to Legacy

Come find out how, after attending the this very Service Summit four years ago, two HKIS eighth graders were inspired to organise a vow of silence day in the middle school.  Thanks to their vision and leadership, Carolyn Scown and Brittany Fried have left a legacy in the Middle School which continues to this day with funds being raised yearly for our adopted village of Gufubao in rural China.

11.     Claudia Gabison – Barking Lot Cafe

Are you an animal lover? Would you like to play a significant role in finding homes for abandoned animals?  Come volunteer at the SPCA’s Barking Lot Café in Stanley.  There you will be surrounded by dogs, cats and hamsters.  You will get to play with animals so that you know them and your main duty is to convince the people, to encourage the families who drop by to adopt one of them or to help them find the right animal to adopt.  Remember:  Adoption saves TWO lives:  Every lucky animal that leaves our Adoption Centre – makes space for another one to find a loving home!

2014-01-11 07.07.4612.     Celine Legaspi – Philippine party

As HKIS students, we are a privileged community, in contrast to other children in the world.  As a way to reach out to those children in need, Virlanie, an organisation in the Philippines, takes in street children to bring back smiles to their faces.  Working with Virlanie for my ‘Elixir Project’ last year, I went to Manila to put on a party for these children, and it was great fun! I continue to work with Virlanie, hoping to demonstrate that service should never stop.

13.  Sean Donnelly and Megan Diehl – Interim carbon footprint

Did you know that every year at our school, Interim trips add approximately 1,230,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere? That means Interim has a bigger carbon footprint than 61 average americans do in an entire year, combined. In their presentation, Megan Diehl and Sean Donnelly, former Humanities 1 in Action students, will tell you what you can do to help offset Interim’s carbon footprint.

14.  Georgette Tso – “Interim Carbon Calculator”

After learning about environmental degradation and natural resource depletion, ex-Humanities-In-Action student Georgette Tso created a Carbon Footprint Scale for the Interim website as part of her Elixir Project. She hopes to offer insight on how to contribute to a greener future by becoming aware of the enormous carbon footprint generated by a typical Hong Kong lifestyle. It is possible to minimize the detrimental effects on the environment even when consumerism, waste, and disregard for the health of our planet is the norm. Come to hear about the Carbon Footprint project, a new project, the opportunity for you to get involved.


15.     Karen Lee & Anna Zhou – Ndoto

Ndoto is a conference that was created by two HKIS alumni in their sophomore year designed to inspire creativity, harness innovation and create change on a local and global level starting with high school students. The inaugural conferences took place in 2013 in both Hong Kong and India, and was attended by roughly 400 people altogether. The project introduced a series of luminary speakers from an array of different professions along with workshops to show students that their potential to do, is limitless.

16.     Christa Schmidt and Terri Yiu – Water Project

It is said that in the 21st century wars will be fought over water instead of other issues like in the past. Many of us living in Hong Kong and who attend HKIS believe water is renewable and safe resource, so it seems shocking to us that nearly a billion people worldwide lack access to safe water supplies. Two years ago as freshmen in Humanities I in Action we were presented with the exact same project as you are now, and realized we were passionate about saving lives through safe water. We approached the Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation wondering how much it cost to send a well to a village in China, which was $51,000. We believed the way we could obtain this money was through the exchange of a service. We raised money the old fashion way through babystitting, dog walking and many other. Come by and hear how we ventured through this project and what the result was!

2014-01-11 07.26.4717.     Laurel Chor  – Hong Kong Explorers

The aim of the Hong Kong Explorers Initiative is to encourage people to explore and appreciate Hong Kong’s wilderness. Projects include leading expeditions to search for specific animals and crowdsourcing an online database of HK fauna and flora, with a focus on endemic species. We believe that the more informed and engaged Hong Kong people are with nature, the better we can all protect Hong Kong’s environment.

2014-01-11 08.18.4518.    Stephanie Tan – Tung Wa schools

In Hong Kong, young people who grow up in lower income families have a hard time breaking out of the poverty cycle. Through learning English and having increased interaction with native English speakers, local students not only have a chance to practice their English skills, but they are able to become more confident and are able to broaden their horizons. Tung Wah Group of Hospitals runs 50 schools in local districts to help young people develop their full potential and eventually serve the people in their communities. The schools in which we need help are on Hong Kong island in the North Point area. Learn how you can be part of it! 

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 7.02.05 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-12 at 7.09.51 PM

*Middle School Student Leadership Conference
at Hong Kong International School
January 9-11, 2014

 Celebrating and utilizing the partnership among the three LCMS founded international schools in Asia, a three-day conference to develop the skills of individual leadership and group dynamics for Grade 7 & 8 Students is being hosted by Hong Kong International School in early January. Students from Concordia-Hanoi and Concordia-Shanghai are invited to join the HKIS student leaders for three days of activities in Hong Kong.

In addition to developing the capacity of skills in participating students, we also want to bring our three schools together annually to celebrate and learn with one another. This conference will engage students in two service projects at  Crossroads Foundation and the HK Tzu Chi Recycling Center. Service-learning is a foundation in each of our schools, which will be highlighted in personal action, discussion and reflection throughout the event. Please note that both Crossroads and the recycling center were founded by HKIS Alumni.

Joining us will be two leaders from the Me to We organization, who are at HKIS the same week assist in the Grade 9 & 10 Service Summit, which we are also participating in. Many thanks to HKIS Teachers Marty Schmidt and Mike Coleman for their leadership in this conference for our MS Students. Marty will be helping us explore how being in service is critical to understanding one’s capacity to lead and serve. Mike, Middle School PE teacher, will lead our group through a variety of physical and mental challenges on the high ropes course at HKIS.

(Description written by Pat and Sue Frerking)


“It is hard to think of any rite found so consistently from one religious tradition to another than ceremonies marking the passage from childhood to adulthood. Adolescent boys among Australian aboriginal peoples cringe for days in a dark, sweltering, steam-filled sweat lodge while their elders make terrifying noises outside. Then the boys crawl through the legs of adult men and are pulled out into the daylight head first, in a simulation of birth . . . . With the exception of modern American culture . . . , in few societies does this passage go so strangely unnoticed.”

– Harvey Cox, Common Prayers, p. 260

About martinschmidtinasia

I have served as a humanities teacher at Hong Kong International School since 1990, teaching history, English, and religion courses. Since the mid-1990's I have also come to assume responsibility for many of the school's service learning initiatives. My position also included human care ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Hong Kong, southern China, and others parts of Asia from 1999-2014. Bringing my affluent students into contact with people served by the LCMS in Asia has proved to be beneficial to students and our community partners alike. Through these experience I have become committed to social conscience education, which gives students the opportunity to find their place in society in the context of challenging global realities.
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