“We Can Make Difference:” SCMP Article on 10th Annual Service Summit

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-8-47-35-pmWe Can Make a Difference by Kay Ross, February 14, 2017

Students from HKIS and its sister schools Concordia-Shanghai and Concordia-Hanoi gathered at HKIS on January 14, 2017, for the 10th annual High School Service Summit. It was also the culmination of the Middle School’s fourth annual Student Leadership Program.

“The Service Summit is the kick-off day of our Humanities 1 in Action course for 9th-graders at HKIS High School,” said Humanities teacher Mr. Marty Schmidt. “We think the two most important things in our school’s curriculum are the future of the planet, and the mental health of our students. So we want our students to find a way to connect their hearts to the world’s issues, and feel empowered to act.”

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Each year, that action comes in the form of semester-long “Elixir” projects, designed and implemented by the students themselves, in which they tackle an environmental or social issue on campus, in Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia. For many students, their projects blossom into successful post-school careers, businesses or non-profit organizations.

Leading up to the Service Summit, a small group of Middle School students from HKIS, Concordia-Shanghai and Concordia-Hanoi were immersed in a three-day Student Leadership Program. “The students get to examine critical issues facing the world, ponder what it really means to be a leader, and forge international friendships. They also start to think about their own possible future Elixir projects. All of that leads to all sorts of outcomes that are not necessarily predictable or measurable,” explained Mr. Greg Ladner, Associate Principal of HKIS Middle School.

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The program included workshops with Ms. Jessica Giang and Ms. Laurence Couture, two Beijing-based facilitators from Me to We, a Canadian social enterprise that empowers people to change the world with their everyday consumer choices. “The aim was to get the students to understand their privileged position in society, and to think about how they can use that privilege for good,” said Jessica.

On January 13, the students visited the Crossroads Foundation, a Hong Kong charity that connects those with resources and those who need help. They did volunteer work, sorting and cleaning donated items, and participated in simulations designed to give them an experience of the challenges faced by blind people and people with AIDS.

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HKIS Middle School student Felix Leung shared his impressions of the program: “It showed me that there are many ways I can serve the community. And I learned that even small actions can have huge positive consequences.”

On January 14, the Middle School students joined the High School students for the Service Summit, where Jessica and Laurence gave a keynote address, and HKIS alumni Mr. Amar Bhardwaj and Mr. Yashvardhan (“Yash”) Bardoloi spoke compellingly about what happened for them after attending previous Service Summits – Amar became passionate about the issue of glass recycling, while Yash founded VolunteerConnect, an online platform that matches volunteers with organizations that need their skills.

Finally, participants had the opportunity to hear from older HKIS students and alumni about previous successful Elixir projects. Examples included empowering impoverished children in Cambodia; producing and selling eco-friendly jute bags in India; reading to and playing with children in a Lutheran nursery in Heng Fa Chuen; gathering donated stationery, clothing, and hygiene supplies to send to people living in extreme poverty in the Philippines; undertaking environmental projects to make Hong Kong more sustainable; and raising funds for two orphanages in Delhi, India.

HKIS High School student Alexandra Debow, who will soon be deciding about her own Elixir project, commented, “It’s not just about completing a project at school; it’s about starting something that will make a positive difference.”


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 Overview of the Service Summit

On Saturday, January 14, HKIS hosted the 10th annual Service Summit, the goal of which is to launch Humanities I in Action grade 9 students’ semester-long, community-based Elixir Projects. Our 75 students heard presentations from our “Me to We” speakers who kicked-off the event with a keynote address. Then they selected five break-out sessions, most conducted by older HKIS students who had done their own successful projects when they were in the class. For the 4th year, the Service Summit was also the culmination of a 3-day service leadership retreat for 30 middle school students from Concordia-Shanghai, Concordia-Hanoi, and HKIS. We look forward to the fruits that will surely emerge from this event.


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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