The threat of swine flu has forced the cancellation of a Hong Kong-based project run by Oxbridge Summer Camp Abroad (OSCA), prompting fears about the future of other charity projects.

OSCA, a student-run organisation, organises teaching camps around Asia. The decision to cancel the trip follows a statement from the Hong Kong government that any school found to have swine flu will be forced to close for two weeks.

Such a possibility has made many schools unwilling to host the OSCA camp.
Philip Maughan, the Oxford co-coordinator for OSCA, added that local charities and organizations could no longer back the nonprofit venture. “This [the situation] made it difficult for the supporting charities and organisations in Hong Kong to continue to back the project given schools could disappear at any time. Their position was strengthened by the first school closure as a result of swine flu just last week”, he said.

Juan Scouller, the co-ordinator of OSCA explained that the decision was taken following consultation with local Hong Kong residents. “It was not our decision, nor is it a decision we agree with.”

The Hong Kong project was due to take place for about 6 weeks in July and August. Around 35 Oxbridge students were expected to be going.

Tim Kelly, one of the students intending to go, expressed his regret. “We’re all really disappointed that it was cancelled, everyone involved put a lot of work in to make it work, and it’s just such a shame that it had to be cancelled for something like this.”

He added, “OSCA is working very hard to see if any of the camps can be salvaged or replaced, but given the limited time remaining it is a very difficult task.”

OSCA is actively helping out those whose project has been cut. The organizers are offering to return the £200 deposit paid by each student when they accepted their place, or to provide a subsidized £300 flight to Hong Kong.

Other OSCA projects are anticipated to run as expected. Maughan commented “OSCA Beijing and Japan are still going ahead – location has a great deal to do with the cancellation of OSCA Hong Kong”.

Similar projects run by ODA, StudyChina and TravelAid are also expected to go ahead as normal. TravelAid stated, “We will not be cancelling any project at this time due to swine flu. We will continue to monitor the situation regularly and update our advice in accordance with recommendations from the FCO and WHO.”

The organization also stressed necessary precautions to be taken before the departure.

“TravelAid is holding a meeting for all volunteers before departure, in which they will receive information on swine flu prevention techniques.”