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Students teach valuable lessons
Nora Tong
update on Saturday, May 22, 2010
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After a brief stint as an intern at a non-governmental organisation (NGO), university student Kiki Tsang has a social goal. "I want to work for a non-profit organisation when I retire and work towards [accomplishing] a social mission," says the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) second-year student who took part in the "Citi Community Intern Programme".  

The programme, co-organised by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, an umbrella group of social service groups, aims to encourage university students majoring in business studies to contribute their knowledge to NGOs.

"We want to instil in our future leaders the notion of corporate social responsibility and help them understand their community better," says Kathy Cheung, country corporate affairs director at Citi Hong Kong.

Many small- and medium-sized NGOs are doing meaningful work but are less adept at aspects such as marketing and fundraising, she adds. Thirty-six NGOs took part in the programme.

Cheung says that 72 students were selected from more than 340 applicants from local universities. They had to complete assigned tasks during the 80 hours they spent with NGOs from December last year to February, and received a salary of HK$6,000 over the period.

Training was put in place to prepare participants for the internship. This included visits to eight NGOs for young people to have a better grasp of the problems encountered by the groups, seminars on how to solicit support from volunteers and donors, and inspiring talks delivered by NGO leaders.

"The students had the chance to talk to employees at Citi about volunteering and find out when and why people volunteer," Cheung says. "We also discussed with them what companies look for in an NGO in deciding whether or not to support it."

Tsang says that together with Mandy Kan, who also studies at HKUST, they came up with suggestions to promote Haven of Hope, an NGO providing medical and social assistance and services.

These ranged from setting up a blog for the group to communicate with the public to making effective use of public notices in the local community.

Kan is glad to have been able to apply what she learned at university to her work at the NGO. "I now have a better understanding of the operation of NGOs. They face more difficulties in marketing than for-profit businesses, partly because of a lack of funding," she says.

Cheung says NGOs have been positive in their feedback. "They are impressed with how efficient the students are. Some think the students have brought new thinking to the groups," she says.

Students were required to present the progress of their work to organisers twice during their internships. "I'm touched by their dedication in helping the groups. Some students even appealed for donations, both in cash and in kind, on behalf of the NGO after making their presentations," Cheung says.


How the students helped

  • Cultivated relationships with volunteers
  • Built the NGO's brand
  • Raised funds
  • Designed systems to make accounting, data management and logistics more efficient

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