03 Jan 2019

With the support from International NGO PeacePlayers International and the backing of EY, the inaugural Bridging Divides with EY program was successfully launched during the final school term of 2018, including a first cross-border twinning experience between Ng Yuk Secondary School and Songgang Experimental School on 14th and 15th of December in Shenzhen.


Bridging Divides with EY is a community, school-based initiative using rugby as a medium to help address challenges in society, with a focus on building understanding and friendship between youngsters from Chinese and ethnic minority backgrounds, and between Hong Kong and Mainland youths.  Twenty students and teachers from Ng Yuk embarked on the first in a series of planned cross-border excursions to Songgang Experimental School, with the desire to establish a bridge for students from both schools through enhancing mutual understanding and promoting cultural exchange.


Songgang Experimental School is one of the most enthusiastic rugby schools within the Greater Bay Area, and they have previously participated in Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) local school competitions, while Ng Yuk Secondary School has always been an advocate of rugby and a keen supporter of programs run by the HKRU Community Foundation, including the Don’t Drop the Ball youth crime initiative; consequently these schools provided a perfect fit for the first cross-border twinning, with the aim to strengthen the camaraderie between students on either side of the border.


The two-day excursion included a visit to the Songgang School campus, ice-breaking activities, and rugby games. Stuart Gunn, the HKRU Community Foundation Inclusive Manager, commented, “It was great to see the way the two groups of students went from being timid, shy and segregated upon arrival, to forming bonds to solve problems and tackle activities during the second day. Students became more and more engaged throughout the day, approaching the activities with an open mindset, and trying to understand from the other person’s point of view before attempting the tasks. It was great to see how they built a relationship in such a short space of time”.


It was also seen to be a valuable experience from the schools’ point of view. "Apart from further developing their rugby skills, I think this was an excellent platform for our students to interact with kids their age outside of Hong Kong, understand their challenges, attitude to learning and of course share their passion for sport. I hope this will give them a different perspective on life and sport when they return to Hong Kong", said Mr. Cheung, PE Supervisor of Ng Yuk Secondary School.


Without support from the corporate sector, these programs would not be possible, and it was great to see Elliott Shadforth, EY Asia-Pacific Wealth and Asset Management Leader, making the trip to Shenzhen to spend the day with the students, and see the impact of EY’s support first-hand. 

"Bringing communities together through sport is one way that EY is able to build a better working world; breaking down barriers, building trust and friendship, and harnessing collaboration and community harmony. We’re delighted to see the positive impact of this initiative, and with the number of kids and schools in the Greater Bay Area we hope the program will continue to go from strength to strength", said Shadforth.

Reflecting on the success of the first cross-border exchange, Songgang Experimental School sports teacher Yi Pearl said, "This has been a valuable two days - I have been impressed with how the specially designed curriculum has helped enhance the students’ ability to better communicate and their cooperation and leadership skills. I know many more students would love to have the chance to take part in the future, and I look forward to visiting Hong Kong next year and spending time at Ng Yuk School.”

The first phase of the Bridging Divides with EY program will conclude at the end of the current school year, and the six participating schools will look forward to phase two in 2019 after a full evaluation and review with the help of PeacePlayers International, who also run sports intervention projects in the West Bank, Cyprus, Belfast, South Africa and the US.