China Social Work Research Centre

Peking University and Polytechnic University

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Since 2007, Peking University has been rolling out its social work program under its Department of Sociology, in a joint effort and strategic partnership with the Department of Applied Social Sciences (DASS) of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). The primary purposes of the joint program are to foster the integration of social work theory and practice as a way to indigenize and professionalize social work in China, as well as provide training to enhance the problem-solving capacity of social workers towards achieving social development.

The two institutes co-founded the PekingU-Hong Kong PolyU China Social Work Research Centre. The Centre is devoted to the development and indigenization of social work theory and practice in China, aiming to develop a pipeline for leading scholars who are committed to the social change of China in the long term. To that end, strengthening the teaching capacity both undergraduate and graduate programs in social work is an integral part of the Center’s mission.

In 2012, ZeShan Foundation and Si Yuan Foundation jointly committed RMB20 million to establish a dedicated development fund. The fund will be critical to supporting the sustained growth of the Centre, so that it may develop into a leading institution for teaching and research in social work development, a think tank for social policy, and an international hub linking with social workers and social policy makers from mainland China, Hong Kong and the international community. The fund provides seed funding for research and program capacity building and enable PKU and the Center to leverage for external funding from the government and private sector.

In 2013, to commemorate the partnership, the compound of the Centre was renamed Si Shan Yuan (思善苑), taken from the names of the two sister foundations. During the unveiling ceremony on July 20, Prof. Zhou Qifeng, President of Peking University, presented Dr. Thomas Chen with the Outstanding Educational Contribution Award in recognition of his unwavering support for education in China.

In January 2014, a 4-day intensive training on social work curriculum development and capacity building was organized for about 100 Master of Social Work (MSW) instructors from various universities across China. Co-organized by Centre, the Social Work Teaching Guidance Committee under the Ministry of Education, and the China Association for Social Work Education, the training program attracted both local and international scholars and senior social work practitioners. Leading pracademics from the University of Chicago and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University participated as trainers in the workshop.

Peking University (PKU) is considered a cradle for higher education in modern China. It has been at the forefront in the teaching and research of humanities, social sciences and liberal arts education. Throughout its history, the university has distinguished itself in terms of intellectual freedom and leadership in social sciences and has produced and hosted man prominent Chinese thought leaders.

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Disaster Relief in the Philippines

World Food Program & Oxfam Hong Kong, the Philippines

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In November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and caused severe and extensive devastation, resulting in numerous casualties and hundreds of thousands homeless. 13 million people were affected by the typhoon, 3.5 million people displaced and over 23,000 injured.  A number of provinces in central Philippines had witnessed massive destruction and loss of life.
In response to the disaster, ZeShan Foundation donated HK$1 million to three leading international humanitarian organizations, namely Doctors without Borders (also known as Medecins sans Frontieres – MSF), the United Nation World Food Program (WFP), and Oxfam Hong Kong for their disaster relief efforts.  The donation will help to provide vital relief to families and also facilitate the rebuilding of their homes and communities in the affected regions.
[Feature photo source: AFP]
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Disaster Relief in Nepal

Habitat for Humanity, World Food Programme & MSF, Nepal

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In response to the Nepal Earthquake in April 2015, ZeShan Foundation supported disaster relief organizations providing food, medical support and shelter.

Nepal, which remains one of the world’s poorest countries, was rocked by a 7.8-magnitute earthquake on April 25, 2015. Hundreds of aftershocks followed, including a 7.3-magnitude quake on May 12. The disaster killed some 9,000 people, injured more than 20,000, and displaced hundreds of thousands across the country. The quakes also caused widespread devastation, destroying some 800,000 houses.

The United Nation World Food Program: To provide food to survivors;

Médecins Sans Frontières: To fund medical and non-medical teams to set up surgical units, provide support to hospitals, run mobile clinics in remote areas, distribute essential relief items, and provide water and sanitation in Nepal.

Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong: To distribute temporary shelter kits, carry out rubble removal and debris clearance, as well as construct transitional housing and permanent homes in the longer term.

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Library Construction

Room To Read, Sri Lanka

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In 2010, ZeShan Foundation supported the fundraising concert for the construction of a library in the Vidyathilake Primary School in Sri Lanka, organized by the Room to Read chapter of the Island School in 2010. The event featured the world’s youngest professional guitarist by the Guinness Book of World Records, Yuto Miyazawa, was a great success.

The project has drawn input from parents and local community members in the construction process and is closely monitored by a local Construction Committee with guidance from the local R2R team. The local community is empowered and feels a sense of ownership through direct participation. Shortly after the completion of construction work, library was fully furnished and filled with almost 1000 books in July 2012. Having adequate light and good ventilation, the spacious 800-square-foot single-story building is welcoming and inviting to students. Training on how to develop reading skills, manage the library, and organize library activities were conducted for librarians and teachers to ensure that facilities will be fully utilized, and ensures the sustainability of the project. It is hoped that the library will be a catalyst to improve literacy and leave great impact on the local community.

Room to Read was founded by John Wood. The organization focuses on enhancing literacy and gender equality in education, so that “all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.”

Click here to read the completion report.

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Teaching Fellows in China

Teach for China, China

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In 2010, ZeShan, together with Si Yuan Foundation and River Star Foundation provided support for Teach For China, formerly named China Education Initiative, an NGO which seeks to reduce educational inequity in China by engaging recent college graduates in the United States and China. Providing an alternate teacher sourcing channel for public schools in China, TFC has developed a teaching fellows program to meet the pressing need for teachers in understaffed low-income schools, while fostering a cross-cultural constituency of young leaders positioned to advance the cause of educational equity.

Forty teaching fellows are placed at schools in teams of four, with two Americans and two Chinese to each team – living and working side-by-side. They strategize about how to motivate and influence their students, cooperate with local school administrations, collaborate with local teachers, and work to improve their students’ educational prospects. To ensure the relevance of its approach, TFC works closely with government partners on program design and implementation.

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Rural Teachers Training Program

Zigen, China

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ZeShan in 2009 joined forces with Seeds Foundation and Si Yuan Foundation in supporting an initiative which aims to develop a training manual and provide “Training the Trainers” (TOT) courses for rural teachers. Developed by The Zigen Fund, an NGO committed to improving the livelihood of rural populations in China, together with experts in rural education, the manual introduces effective teaching and learning methodologies in the context of rural China, and reasserts the value of being a rural teacher.

Training has been provided to 120 county-level “master trainer” teachers in Hubei, Hebei and Yunnan provinces on how to use the manual. They are expected to train up to 3,000 rural elementary school teachers in the next three years. A conference will be held in 2011 to share best practice indicators for quality rural education, showcase the training manual, and hopefully inspire other adult education programs in rural areas.

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Building Disaster Response Capacity in Public Health

School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

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While Asia is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, there is only limited region-specific research in relations to the role of public health and medicine in disaster response and management.

In order to improve preparedness for future disasters and mitigate the resulting adverse impact, the School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong initiated a research project to develop case studies of public health issues resulting from major natural disasters. Modeled on the concept of case-teaching methods in the research and teaching of disasters and humanitarian studies, the project is led by Professor Sian Griffiths and Professor Emily Chan.

The study examines medical and public health responses to recent major disasters in Asia and their complex emergency situations. The results of the project, including a set of case studies, will be shared among academic, research and policy professionals, and are expected to contribute to the body of knowledge currently available and stimulate further discourse. They will enhance knowledge and understanding of key issues in disaster response and training in the region. The outcome is intended to be used for teaching and as academic references for future research and historical referencing purposes. Also in the plan is a series of public seminars at which public health professionals and academia will be invited to share their experiences in public health and medicine in disaster and humanitarian response.

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Initiative to Rebuild Community Leadership

Beijing Normal University (BNU) and the University of Hong Kong (HKU)

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The earthquake on May 12, 2008 in Sichuan, China, caused enormous damage to human lives and properties, paralyzing the local economy with a direct economic loss exceeding RMB100 billion in Mianzhu City alone. It also dealt a heavy blow to the local community leadership capacity: hundreds of local leaders lost their lives and many more were injured. Those who fortunately survived the disaster felt helpless and incapacitated.

Endorsed by China’s Central State Council, Beijing Normal University (BNU) and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) jointly formed the Major Disaster Management Initiative, which aims to resolve a key “bottleneck” in post-disaster rebuilding by restoring local community leadership capacity, and cultivating new blood for grassroots NGO development.

The project selected the Hanwang Shelter in Mianzhu as its entry point to map out a strategy for rebuilding community leadership. The Hanwang Shelter, with over 50,000 residents, was the largest of the many which were hastily put up to accommodate thousands of survivors displaced by the earthquake.

The initiative, under the joint leadership of Professor Zhang Xiulan (BNU) and Professor Cecilia Chan (HKU), combined the strength of social work and community development with social research. While seeking to rebuild local leadership capacity, the project team organized workshops on stress management and work-skills training for community leaders and volunteers. Mutual respect between the project team and local government led to trust and collaboration, which evolved into a strong and ongoing partnership. One of the outcomes was the creation of locally-groomed NGOs that have received strong support from the government.

The strong research component of the initiative has led to comprehensive documentation of the reconstruction experience, which in turn provides useful information to both academia and government policymakers on post-disaster rehabilitation. Research results have been well-received at national and nternational conferences on disasters and community rebuilding. Today, the BNU-HKU initiative is a fixture in the local community’s tireless effort to rebuild and redevelop the disasterstricken region. The service center also serves as a training camp for aspiring social work students from both mainland and Hong Kong universities

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PolyU Asset-based Community Rebuilding

China

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Just a short distance from the epicenter of the 5.12 earthquake, the entire Yingxiu town was practically leveled. Hundreds of lives were lost. Within days of the earthquake, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) dispatched social work teams led by Professors Ting Wai-fong and Ku Hok-bun to Yingxiu. Joined by their partners from Sichuan University in Chengdu and Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, the teams spent countless hours assessing the immediate and short-term needs while providing recovery assistance to the victims in Yingxiu.

Farther up north in the mountainous Qingping, villagers sustained heavy losses of property and means of livelihood as a result of the quake and landslides. However, due to its remote location, Qingping was completely cut off from the outside world and in dire need of assistance. Undaunted, Professor Ting led a team of young social workers trekking for hours across treacherous terrains blocked by landslides and collapsed roads to reach the villagers. They immediately set up a temporary service center, which has since become a permanent fixture in Qingping.

Although the earthquake-stricken regions suffered huge human and property losses, the PolyU team and their mainland partners immediately recognized that post-disaster recovery and rebuilding could not, and should not, rely on external assistance alone. They helped villagers take stock of local resources to rebuild their lives by assisting with the re-establishment of various means of livelihood in the communities, such as by helping local people with the design, production and commercialization of traditional handicraft items, providing training on ecotourism management, and connecting local bed-and-breakfast establishments with city residents for weekend trips.

Meanwhile, the PolyU social service center in Qingping became the “village hall” where displaced villagers, young and old, found solace and support. Activities and group gatherings reconnected the villagers and fostered a strong sense of community. The project team paid particular attention to elderly villagers and those with limited mobility and earning ability, while also offering counseling services and cultural activities. Local volunteers were organized to document the history of the communities.

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People’s Giving Behaviours (2007-2009)

Hong Kong Council of Social Service, Hong Kong

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In 2007, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) piloted a survey to gauge Hong Kongers’ giving behavior. A collaboration with the University of Hong Kong, the survey revealed thought-provoking findings and basically confirmed what was suspected about how and why Hong Kongers donate to charitable causes.

Recognizing the instructional and informative values of such a study, ZeShan provided funding to the HKCSS for two follow-up surveys in 2008 and 2009. Such a longitudinal study provided not only additional evidence on Hong Kong people’s giving habits, but also stimulated a discussion on how citizens may be involved in their communities by taking on a more proactive approach. This study led to the creation of “Charity Savings Account” for individual donors who are only able to give a small sum at a time, and who often feel their charitable gestures may not make much of a difference. To date, HKCSS has signed on over 100 individuals who deposit into their accounts on a regular basis.

It is heartening to learn that Hong Kong citizens are extremely generous. They rise to calls to help victims of major disasters and donate to help the less fortunate in the community. Almost 90% of those surveyed made charitable donations in the survey year (2008). Close to 80% of those surveyed did not reduce their donations to local charities as a result of giving to disaster relief. It is also a strong reminder that donors care greatly about an organization’s reputation, degree of transparency and effectiveness of services rendered.

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