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Simple joys of an urban dweller - being a Green Volunteer

As urban dwellers, we are subjected to great stress. The secret of happiness often seems elusive.

The answer may be very simple, though. The over 1,000 Green Volunteers in the District Green Hong Kong Ambassadors Scheme organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) believe they have found the secret.

"Plant Doctor"

To some people, the work of the Green Volunteers looks like so much tiring physical labour. They toil under the sun and on rainy days alike. But Mr Cheung Yue-sang, a retired laboratory technician, would not agree. He nurtures plants for exhibitions and gives advice to the public when greening activities are held. His fellow volunteers call him the "Plant Doctor".

The origins of his nickname are evident in the following anecdote.

"A man brought a 'sick' plant - a withering Asparagus Fern - and asked me for a 'diagnosis' during one of the community greening days," Mr Cheung recalls. "Of course I was willing to help because he had trust in me.

"I found the plant had been over-watered and the wrong planting medium had been used. Since there was no appropriate planting medium on hand, we sent the 'patient' to the training base of the volunteers in Kowloon Park, which we always call the 'ICU', for 'urgent treatment'.

"After a few weeks of 'intensive care', the fern 'recovered' and turned green again."

Mr Cheung added: "It was so satisfying to see the happy face of that citizen when he got his plant back. Maybe this is the driving force for the Green Volunteers."

"Green Trainer"

Fok Suk-ching is a housewife and a horticulture veteran. She often assists LCSD when it hosts horticulture talks designed to teach the public how to nurture plants. An avid hiker, Miss Fok collects seeds along the way and plants them at home. In her collection is the 'Sensitive Plant', the favourite plant of children.

"I feel there is a magic power in plants. They can bring happiness to people. Passing on my horticultural knowledge to others and allowing more people to enjoy the fun makes me happy," said Miss Fok.

Relaxation for health

Green Volunteers come from all walks of life. Some are retirees, some still work nine to five. Tsang Kwai-yuk, one of the Outstanding Green Volunteers honoured for her contributions to district greening work, is a bank employee. She spends long hours at a computer every day and her workload is heavy. Miss Tsang has joined various community greening activities to alleviate the pressure from work. She feels good when she looks after flowers.

Miss Tsang helps organise family planting activities as well. "Through participating in the family planting programmes, children gain some greening knowledge, while their relationship with their parents is reinforced," she said. "It also enhances our sense of belonging to the community."

Family Planting Day is the most popular district greening activity, integrating such activities as family planting, horticulture talks, plant care workshops, tree studies and games. The whole programme is organised by the Green Volunteers.

Horticultural training and activities

Green Volunteers receive basic horticultural instruction at the training bases in various districts. They are taught plant maintenance skills, such as watering, fertilisation and pest and disease control. Upon completion of the training, volunteers can participate in the greening activities of their choice. Gardening in parks, planting, organising planting days, hosting talks in schools, putting labels on roadside plants - these are just a few of the options.

Green Volunteers make great contributions to the greening of Hong Kong.

At the annual Hong Kong Flower Show, for example, they help organise "plant maintenance workshops", demonstrating the proper care of plants. Last year, more than 100 Green Volunteers took part in the tree survey in LCSD parks, collecting data on species, locations and numbers of trees. These findings are useful to LCSD staff when deploying their maintenance resources. In addition, the volunteers put labels on roadside trees to help familiarise the public with the different species.

Green Volunteers come from different professions and different age groups. But one thing they share is the love of nature, of green life and of community building. They find the secret of happiness in the work of a Green Volunteer. If you want to join the Green Volunteers Scheme, please contact LCSD's district leisure offices for more details.

Ends/Friday, December 26, 2003
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