Reflections on Nepal

By Jafferson Tong

Jafferson Tong Chung-hong, a Year 4 BBA Business Economics student, spent a month in Nepal this summer together with ten other CB students as part of the Service Learning Programme. Here he talks about social inequality, living outside his comfort zone, and aspirations for the future.

Jafferson Tong (far right) with his fellow volunteers

One week has already passed since my return from Nepal but the one-month Service Learning programme still seems like a dream that happened last night. There were many unforgettable experiences throughout the journey, and the trip changed the way I look at society and deepened my global view. In addition, the trip definitely provided me with a wider insight into society, which is helpful and strengthened my desire to be a leader in the future and help create a better life for the community.

During the trip I lived in different residences including a hotel, guesthouses and homestay and experienced various situations in living environments. There was a big divergence between urban and rural areas, tourist spots and residential areas, and even between a hotel and a guesthouse right next to it. Perhaps the existence of a caste system and "guest is superior" mentality in Nepal has made an impact.

Privileged people and regions enjoy good treatment, but the lower class or poorer places receive less immediate benefits or are even ignored. For instance, electricity supply would always be stable for "superior" hotels, but I experienced no electricity in my homestay for nearly 12 hours after heavy rain. I got the same feeling in my work placement as well, showing the importance of social status. For example, women from the lower class still needed to work while other workers were resting in a construction site. Again, poorer or lower-class students studied hard in bamboo schools without amusement facilities.

It is normal that people receive different treatment according to their social status, but the more important point is whether the government or the public is aware of the needy and ensures fairness in society. I definitely object to the caste system although I respect the culture in Nepal, as I think that everyone in society should enjoy a fair opportunity. The onemonth programme offered me a platform to take an in-depth look into how the community operated and, more importantly, how people care about one another in society as everyone should be fairly treated as they and belong to the same culture. All of us are related to each other, and if anything develops in an improper way, a vicious cycle in society will occur. Therefore, constant awareness of what is going on in society is crucial and beneficial to all stakeholders.

This opportunity to serve outside Hong Kong helped me eliminate some stereotypes against other places, as I had imagined Nepal was lagging far behind the world. The journey changed my mindset and I totally understand that knowing a place is not the same as getting information from the internet, but also a result of going to the place directly and personally. Moreover, the programme made me consider engaging in more volunteer services outside Hong Kong as I want to pass more love to the needy (surely Hong Kong has many as well) in the world, and in the meantime, learn about the culture of other countries. I will strive for more opportunities to go outside my comfort zone, and cherish any learning chances in my remaining university life to have a deeper understanding of the world.

Last but not least, I highly recommend students to join the Service Learning Programme as this is an opportunity for you to serve the world and change yourself at the same time. It will also be a challenge as you need to prepare well and be mentally ready to adapt to harsh environments. But at the end, when you look at your progress in the programme, you will definitely agree everything you did was valuable. Furthermore, it is a good time for you to reflect on yourself with simplicity during the trip, and think about what you are looking for in the future. Just one step further and do not miss this opportunity!