Sowing Seeds of
by Grace Cao '21, Kezia Leung '21, Nicole Tan '21
From teaching local students English to playing music for the elderly, HKIS students dedicate their weekends to serving Hong Kong through the Service on Saturdays (SOS) program, created by teachers Dr. Marty Schmidt and Ms. Zella Talbot over twenty-five years ago. Dr. Schmidt and Ms. Talbot envisioned a network that could foster deeper connections between our students and the local community through service; today SOS has grown to include four sectors of service, 15 clubs, and over 120 members. This expansion prompted the addition of the SOS Committee in 2019, a team of students striving to connect service clubs with each other and the wider school community to promote a culture of collaborative and effective service.
But what motivates over 100 teenagers to spend their weekends serving others? No two members share the same reason, yet a common narrative begins to appear: Through SOS, students have an opportunity to combine service with their own unique passions, be it horse-riding, art, music, or teaching, sparking a sense of purpose and community. “In my 12 years of playing the violin, I've never had any opportunity like the one ‘Music for the Elderly’ has offered me,” says Grace Cao '21. “It was my first time seeing the potential of my performances to put a smile on an old granny’s face or to get the elderly to sing with us.”
SOS leaders enjoy a snack in the Wanchai neighborhood
SOS isn’t just a group of service clubs—we’re a tight-knit yet diverse community that learns from each other and works together. When the pandemic prevented us from meeting in-person, SOS clubs collaboratively rolled out video series for NGOs with student-led activities, ranging from exercises to drawing. After returning to campus, we found a new appreciation for being with our community and began exploring intersectionalities within service to bring different interests together, such as with “Service and Art” workshops where we designed cards for the elderly. We continued to support underserved groups during Covid-19 social distancing measures through the high school-wide
“Boxes of Giving” initiative
. Despite unexpected school closures in December, the HKIS community came together and donated 280 care packages and over HK$28,000 in coupons to five local NGOs. Throughout the year, SOS clubs reached out to the larger Hong Kong community through RTHK’s
Social Takeover program
, to share SOS’s work and raise awareness about the needs of those we serve. In a time of uncertainty and isolation, the community came together and realized that we can accomplish more with less if we stick together.
Hiroko Kawase '22 and Mohamed Saleh, the Education Program Coordinator at NGO Branches of Hope, pick out the best books for SOS Reading Club.
"The pandemic pushed us as the committee to reconsider what service truly meant to us. We realized that our relationships with service aren’t built on a single Saturday—they’re cultivated throughout our lives, and they begin with fostering passion and purpose within our community."
The pandemic pushed us as the committee to reconsider what service truly meant to us. We realized that our relationships with service aren’t built on a single Saturday—they’re cultivated throughout our lives, and they begin with fostering passion and purpose within our community. With that in mind, SOS will take on a new name as we step into the next school year: Seeds of Service.
The renaming of SOS also led us to re-define the relationship between serving and leading. Inspired by our 30 student leaders, the idea of servant leadership found itself taking root at the heart of SOS. We strive to serve members and diminish the traditional hierarchical structure of leadership, encouraging students to put others first. As the cycle continues, new leaders will bring their own definitions of servant leadership to the team, continuing to shape SOS and helping it grow.
SOS Club Leaders
Nicole Tan '21, Aidan Ngai '22, Hiroko Kawase '22, Grace Cao '21, Zachary Berkenkotter '22, Jillian Tunnicliff '22
See SOS's work in action!
Expat Living Magazine
HKIS on Giving Back this Christmas
SOS Mighty Oaks - Music for the Elderly - Lunar New Year Songs
SOS Lutheran Nursery: Remote Session
Interviews with NGOs:
This is Mighty Oaks: Helping the Elderly
This is Branches of Hope: Reading Club with Refugees
This is YoungLives: Helping Teen Moms
Special thanks to
Branches of Hope
for their participation. Find out more about their work through their