Tin Shui Wai community internship project provides SSC and secondary school students with valuable experiences

From left to right: Professor Stephen Chiu, Yammy Chan Ping-yan, Aki Yu Wai-ki, Casey Wong Cheuk-kwan, Hayley Lim Hi-yi, Ms Amy Ng, a graduate assistant from SSC, Holly Yu Chi-yiu and Dr Benjamin Li, a guest lecturer at SSC. Yammy, Aki, Casey, Hayley and Holly are student mentors from SSC.

Everyone joyfully concludes their final presentation in mid-August.

To understand the heart of a community, one must experience genuine interactions among its members. To acquire knowledge in a meaningful way, one should practise it in contexts that are relatable to their daily life. With these two beliefs in mind, the Department of Social Sciences (SSC) partnered with the Yuen Yuen Institute MFBM Nei Ming Chan Lui Chung Tak Memorial College (or “the school”) to implement the “Tin Shui Wai Community Internship Programme”.

Launched in November 2021, the community internship programme recruited five students majoring in the Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Global and Hong Kong Studies (GHKS) programme from SSC to take up the role of mentoring 18 students from the school to conduct small-scale community research projects in Tin Shui Wai (TSW). The programme concluded with a final presentation held in mid-August where participating school students shared the findings of their research projects.

The internship programme arranged the 18 school students into five groups, each assigned with a mentor from SSC, to facilitate group-based activities such as group discussions, familiarisation trips and community map readings. To equip these students with the skills to carry out field research, student mentors went to the school to deliver workshops on basic knowledge about community studies and research methods. As part of the community programme, a visit to EdUHK was arranged in early August for the secondary school students as well, where they learnt how to use the geographic information system (GIS), attended a briefing about FLASS undergraduate programmes, and toured around the campus to catch a glimpse of university life. 

Secondary school students come to EdUHK to learn how to use geographic information system (GIS) to present data. Also in the photo is SSC student mentor Casey Wong.

During a one-day visit to EdUHK organised for secondary school students on 2 August, Professor Stephen Chiu gives a mock lecture about FLASS undergraduate programmes and university life.

Secondary school students tour around EdUHK’s campus to catch a glimpse of university life.

The lectures and group activities ignited curiosity among the secondary school students, stimulating them to develop their own research topics, set research goals and carry out investigations according to their interests. Student mentors from SSC assisted the school students to conduct community-based research, through which they explored and observed the community life in TSW, and reflected on the neighbourhood around them.

Holly’s group conducts a comparative study between recreational facilities in North and South Tin Shui Wai; the team members count the number of visitors to Hong Kong Wetland Park.

Casey’s group explores different biking routes in the community; team members pose in front of Hong Kong Wetland Park.

Hayley’s group uses Google Earth to locate small specialty stores near Light Rail stations.

Aki’s group members visit Dragon Park as part of their efforts to design different one-day tour itineraries by familiarizing themselves with various scenic spots in the community.

Yammy’s group observes the customer composition of popular restaurants in the district.

The programme provided an opportunity for the student participants from the school to reach out and learn more about recreational and transport facilities, housing and other aspects of TSW under the guidance of student mentors from SSC. It ended with a “Learning Celebration” held in mid-August, where the five groups of participating students presented findings on the utilisation of recreational facilities in the community, shared recommendations for one-day tour itineraries, as well as gave out tips for small specialty stores, budget eateries and biking routes, through the use of geographic information maps, videos and drawings.


SSC students experience personal growth in coaching role

Tang Wai-kwan (second from left) and his group members prepare for their final presentation.

Professor Stephen Chiu finds the overall quality of the students’ presentations good, and comments on each presentation.

Professor Stephen Chiu Wing-kai, the coordinator of the internship programme and Chair Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean (International Engagement) of FLASS, together with Acting Principal Mr Pang and Head of Student Development Mr Lam from the secondary school, joined students’ final presentations as part of the commentator panel. Professor Chiu was delighted to see the achievements of the secondary school students after months of hard work on their research projects, and to witness the personal growth of SSC student mentors as a result of taking up a coaching role. 

“Through this programme, student participants from the secondary school rediscovered the uniqueness and diversity of TSW, thereby broadening their imagination about the community. Their final presentations were great. Meanwhile, by leading secondary school students to conduct research, student mentors from SSC applied their social science knowledge and research skills to field-based activities. By being mentors, they learnt how to provide personalised academic guidance to younger students, and thereby experienced growth themselves,” he said.


I was able to observe through my own eyes the varied facets of community life.


Aki Yu Wai-ki was one of the five student mentors from SSC. A resident of TSW herself, Aki praised the community element of the internship programme, which makes every effort to connect classroom learning with the wider community. “The present community project gave us an opportunity to closely observe TSW. Even though I live here and have learnt a lot about the district from the classroom, actually knowing what people think about their community is a different matter. As a student mentor, I was able to observe through my own eyes the varied facets of community life,” she said. Besides Aki, Yammy Chan Ping-yan, Casey Wong Cheuk-kwan, Hayley Lim Hi-yi and Holly Yu Chi-yiu were the other four student mentors from SSC.


 From a city of sadness to a pleasant community 

Aki has lived in TSW since she was born. She learnt from materials in Professor Chiu’s course that the community she calls home now was once labelled the “city of sadness” due to its high rate of suicide, mental illness and domestic violence, which once occupied the headlines of local and international newspapers. Aki and her classmates alike obtained a better understanding of TSW from the course discussions, which throw light on the causes behind the tragedies that happened in the early 2000s.

Such sadness is now in the annals of history. “If anything, TSW now is a community of vibrancy and vitality,” Aki said. Far-flung in the northwestern corner of the city, TSW today boasts picturesque surroundings and a charming neighbourhood. The myriad of small businesses, chic cafés, modern shopping malls, heritage sites and the Lau Fau Shan seafood village have also made the district a pleasant place to live.

Through the TSW community project, student mentors and college students explored many of the public facilities in the area. Aki pointed out the local hot spots: “The Hong Kong Wetland Park is at the top of the list of must-visit spots in the city, while the Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai Public Library is the second-largest public library after the Central Library in Causeway Bay. TSW also has cycling trails that link up with Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and beyond.”


Learning how to accommodate different opinions

Tang Wai-kwan represents his group to present a study on budget restaurants in the district.

Tsu Ka-wai (second from right) learns how to listen to different opinions from group members and how to cooperate in a group project.

Tang Wai-kwan, a student from the school, was the leader of the group that carried out a study on budget restaurants in the district. He appreciated efforts made by his group’s mentor Yammy Chan in helping him to understand the workshops that preceded the field research. “Her elaborations helped me understand the workshop materials that I sometimes found difficult. She also gave us good advice when our group members got stuck on how to organise our final presentation,” Wai-kwan said.

Tsu Ka-wai’s group studied the usage rate of recreational facilities in the community, such as the Wetland Park and Ping Shan Public Library. She said their project gave them the rare opportunity to come into close contact with people amid the pandemic. “We had to physically walk along the streets to do our on-site investigations, and we did our final presentation in person. These experiences feel so much more meaningful considering social distancing is still the norm dictating people’s life,” Ka-wai said.  She also thought that working as a team taught her how to listen to and accommodate different opinions from group members. She thanked her group’s mentor Holly Yu in helping them to resolve their disputes and reach a resolution whenever opinions were divided.

Mr Mak Chung-man, or “Mak Sir”, says his students became more motivated to self-learn after taking part in the community programme.

Through project-based learning, students understood more about their own community... They became more motivated to learn.


Geography panel Mr Mak Chung-man, or "Mak Sir", was the programme supervisor from the school. He observed noticeable changes in his students after joining the community programme, noting that the students learnt how to identify a research topic, collect and analyse information, and finally present the findings of their research projects. “Through project-based learning, students understood more about their own community through genuine interactions with people, helping them to grow more connected with it. Some of them proactively asked for help from the school for their projects, such as asking if they could borrow a GoPro to produce a vlog for their presentations. They became more motivated to learn,” he said.

SSC will launch the new Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Sociology and Community Studies (BSocSc(SCS)) programme in the 2022/23 academic year. The new senior-year entry programme emphasises a community-based approach and an experiential learning curriculum. The recently concluded TSW community project will most certainly provide a valuable reference for the new programme. “As a pilot run, we are satisfied with the results accomplished by the TSW project. It will provide valuable pointers for future community-based projects that the BSocSc(SCS) programme is going to implement,” Professor Chiu said.