The Harbour School

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Project Hope: A Whole School Approach

  • 2021
  • Community
Rafi Cristobal, Director of Social Impact & Sustainability

In early 2019, Project Hope was started with the humble hope of growing interest and action in community service at our school without any big expectations. We started small, and with the support of our enthusiastic school community, we grew bigger and bolder, successfully completing close to 20 events from 2019 to 2021 despite the challenges brought by Covid-19. 
 
Thus far, our initiatives have focused on providing support to ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong, the elderly, and those in need. In aggregate, over 500 students, parents, teachers, local community groups, district councils and private organization partners have been mobilized through Project Hope to date.
 
Community service programs in Hong Kong are typically exclusive activities seemingly reserved for a select few - mostly corporates, government bodies or institutions with power and influence. Children are thought to be too young to help. They are relegated to the sidelines, as if issues that affect the world and the communities in which they live have nothing to do with them. In fact, it has everything to do with them.
 
Project Hope was created with the purpose of including students, especially in the primary school, by giving those with a desire to help others opportunities to do so freely. THS’s inclusive and community-oriented mission and values meant that it was always fertile ground for a volunteer movement. 
 
From the beginning, Project Hope has had tremendous support from THS school leadership. It is their belief that cultivating the desire for volunteerism, community service and social responsibility must start early and during a child’s formative years. 
 
With this in mind, we set our sights further. What if social impact and community service were incorporated into daily school life so that they became a seamless and consistent feature of the learning at school for both students and faculty? And so Project Hope evolved and expanded its scope to become the Social Impact and Sustainability Program, bringing under the umbrella a focus on sustainability, guided by the United Nations’  17 Sustainable Development Goals. More ambitious than Project Hope, SISP was established to serve as a catalyst and an instrument for the school’s vision to embed a positive mindset for social impact and responsibility into the very fabric of the school’s culture. At the beginning of this academic year, a dedicated SISP team was formed and a simple framework drawn up to implement the program: Term 1 > Awareness, Term 2 > Exposure (Reflection, Planning), and Term 3 > Taking Responsibility (Initiate Project, Participation).
 
The Program’s main thrust is to spark curiosity and interest in our student body through the introduction of basic but important concepts of volunteerism and community service. By keeping SISP initiatives simple yet thoughtful, keeping activities high energy, highly interactive and relatable to our students, our long-term goal is to establish a full-blown community service program formally embedded into the school’s curriculum and course offerings. 
 
Over the last year, THS students, parents and teachers have engaged in social impact events through simple classroom activities that are naturally occurring, part of school, and integral to their learning process. They have read stories to the elderly, harnessed their creativity by making thoughtful greeting cards for the sick, made fun videos to cheer on medical workers at the front lines of this pandemic, design statement t-shirts, grow green fingers by potting plants for domestic helpers and victims of violence, and counted, sorted and packed fruits, masks, or mooncakes which will be distributed to people in need. This year, we launched Meatless Mondays, a rooftop garden and drove awareness initiatives through partnerships such as the one currently running with Redress.
 
As a leader in progressive education, THS aims to demonstrate through SISP that adopting a community service and sustainable development education as an integral K to G12 curriculum is feasible. And that in fact, the desire to do good must be fostered early, rising progressively through the academic year groups. By focusing on the people who will lead the charge with changing the world – our children - it is our sincere hope that an action-oriented plan for social impact and sustainability can bring about meaningful change.
 

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