Venture into Nature is a video competition hosted by JGI Hong Kong with the goal of encouraging Hong Kong’s youth to venture into nature and promote the preservation of Hong Kong’s natural beauty. Each team of 3-5 students from various local secondary schools had to research an area and organize a field trip for 20 other students.  The trip had to be filmed, edited and submitted all by the students before being judged by a panel of three. A total of 9 teams competed with a total direct reach of 180 students and over 500 indirectly reached online with further more during the eco-tour to Taiwan for the winning 3 teams. 

The first two days of the trip took place in K2 Nature Centre, an environmental education and outdoor activities center ran by JGI Taiwan. 30 other students from Hua Qiao School - a Taiwanese secondary school nearby - whom have long been part of Roots & Shoots, joined our Hong Kong teams. Together they engaged in various outdoor activities such as archery competition, ecological observations and enjoyed vegetarian meals together. They also played various group games and the Hua Qiao students shared with our teams their experience with Roots & Shoots. 

Students from Taiwan were warm and welcoming which led to the friendly atmosphere that followed. Towards the evening of the second day, the students exchanged contacts and we left for the High Speed Rail station – but not before a quick visit to the nearby night market. 

On the third and fourth day, the teams from Hong Kong joined the Erren River Workshop hosted by JGI Taiwan and Chang Jung University. 55 other students from Hsin-Feng Senior High School, Shalun Junior High School, Hong Wa Cuo Elementary School Hushan Elementary School, Gueiren Elementary School, Wunhua Elementary School and Yiren Elementary School also joined the workshop. Over the two days, the students once again mixed in fantastically and together they participated in riverbank clean up, which was featured on several local media, and Erren River ecological observations where the students explored the environmental damaged caused by the nearby factories to the wildlife habitat.  

In the evening, the teams from Hong Kong shared their competition video as well as bringing an extra topic each to share with the  Taiwanese students under the night sky in a beautiful temple. The extra topics they shared were – ‘How to Survive in Hong Kong as an Ethnic Minority’ (the students from this group were from an Islamic School in Hong Kong), ‘The Effect of the Proposed 3rd Runway on Chinese Pink Dolphins’ and ‘The Comparison of Solid Waste Management in Hong Kong and Taiwan’. Towards the end of the last day, the students from Taiwan were eager to show their culture to us. They took us to various locations for delicious Taiwanese desserts and fruits before we headed back to the airport for Hong Kong.

Lessons for Starting R&S in Hong Kong 

There is a big difference between the students and teachers of Taiwan and Hong Kong in terms of their care towards the community and thus their attitude with starting Roots and Shoots projects. In Taiwan, the teachers and students have a strong sense of ownership and care towards their communities’ environment. They are keen on starting and continuing their projects with next to no financial or material incentives. In Hong Kong, our response to the Venture into Nature competition was average, even with subsidies claim and attractive rewards (Taiwan trip and grant money). Although 9 teams joined the competition, only the top 3 teams were able to visit Taiwan and receive grant money for starting R&S. There are very little incentives for the other 6 teams to start R&S. In the coming proposal to repeat this competition, I want to make these changes: Instead of subsidies for making videos, we can allocate small grants to competing teams to start R&S projects. The winning teams will get further grants to expand their projects. This way, the funding can be more directly used towards R&S initiatives, more R&S groups will kick-start and continue. This will be particularly attractive for local schools where financial incentives are necessary.