The representatives from The Hong Kong Council of Social Service visited our board in 25th January 2018 with the purpose of strengthening communication and connection of board members. The discussion was fruitful and encouraging. We were inspired by the experiences shared from them that would improve our Home to become accountable, efficient, effective organization and responsive to social needs.
Home away from home provides care and life skills for troubled girls in Hong Kong
It is 5pm and at a temporary shelter for homeless girls, the kitchen is bustling. A team of teenagers are preparing dinner for themselves and their peers, part of the daily routine at the home, in a tower block on a public housing estate in Tsing Yi.
The lodging is run by Home Care for Girls, a non-profit organisation, founded by Sister Agnes Ho. The place provides a safe and caring environment where troubled girls can seek compassion and stability away from problematic family situations.Elf Wong Ching-ying, who manages the care home, said teenage girls were referred to them by social workers.“They are unable to stay with their families for different reasons,” Wong said of the home’s residents, aged between 14 and 18.
Home Care for Girls receives funding from Operation Santa Claus, the annual charity campaign jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.“These girls are secondary school students. They face family problems and are in dire need of a place that can provide them with stable accommodation so that they can focus on their studies,” Wong said.
The service provides homeless girls with accommodation at HK$1,640 monthly for up to one year. The girls will return home if their family problems are resolved in that time.Others may transfer to long-term government residential care homes if their troubles persist.Apart from their basic needs, the girls’ social and emotional development is also taken care of at the home.
“Some girls don’t even know how to make the bed when they just arrive,” Wong said.“We teach them how to lead an independent life, and to cook, to help them grow up,” she said, adding that counselling services were also available to help the girls deal with their emotional problems.The teenage residents have a daily routine at the home, where members take turns to cook and do chores.“Our home is more than about beds, sofas, TVs ... Family-like peer support, and the care provided by the staff here are also very important,” Wong said.A former resident said she saw the place as a warm shelter.“It feels like home to me,” the 23-year-old, who identified herself as “Man”, said.Man said she had a troubled relationship with her elder brother, and she was referred to the organisation in 2011 after the death of their mother.She has recently finished her studies. “I want to be a social worker,” Man said, adding that she was inspired by the home’s staff and hoped to help other girls.Minnie Li Au Kam-ping, chairwoman of Home Care for Girls, said she believed the girls and the community as a whole could benefit from their service.“When you help a girl, you are shaping her future and helping her with her family,” she said.“This group of homeless girls, though small in number, are also part of those neglected by society,” she added.
Dear all members of HCG:
There are two purposes of writing this letter. First, it is to express my thanks in being fortunate enough to live in Home Care for Girls. Second, I would like to use the perspective of an “ old girl” to tell you all the importance of the accommodation is to me and the other girls who stay there. The work of HCG to help girls in need of a home and the services that it provide...maybe you have already heard of such information often from social workers or Sister Agnes, which is why I would like to use the perspective of a service user to express my feelings from a first-person point of view.
I have grown a lot in during the less than two years’ experience here. I am very grateful to have such a place for shelter and a place to allow me to make mistakes. When I am hurt, there will always be someone to care for and to teach me. I have experienced too many incidents of separation in the past, causing me to become numb towards my surroundings. This place allows me to remember the importance of being grateful. Although I may make mistakes over and over again, they still continue to give advice wholeheartedly and provide us with chances. Not having a permanent home all these years has been a painful thing for me. Especially after I entered adulthood, the resources and help provided by organizations decreases drastically. I worry about my future, every day, whether I would have to sleep in the streets or give up my studies tomorrow, one week later, one month later or one year later. I am thankful for being able to stay in HCG. Although not all the worries disappear, at least it has given me time to relax. The house parents and social workers are also very concerned about our whereabouts and plans after the stay, and often discussing this with us.
There are also various kinds of people here. The house parents also have different personalities. There are many opportunities for one to get along with others, allowing me to learn and correct some mistakes.
To be honest, the thing that I have learnt most here is to be grateful. The previous places that I used to stay in usually do not come to a good ending. I used to leave as quickly as possible at the end, nevertheless writing a thank you letter, it would already be great if I did not scold them. Seems a bit too much? When I think about it now, I also think that I wasn't right. But HCG can even make me write a thank you letter, isn’t it very magical? Hahahaha. I don’t dare to say that I have become a better person and corrected all my faults, but at least I am more like a human now, not being cold and selfish. When you receive, you should also give, so you can continue to receive. Someone said, ‘If you are good to ten people, there is no guarantee that those ten people will be good to you. If there are two to three people who are, it is already very good. If you do not even give a little, none of the ten people will be good to you.’It may seem an easy and plain concept to understand, but it is not easy when one has to really give and sacrifice. This place has taught me how to understand this and this is why I am using my time to write this thank-you letter.
There are many thoughts which are difficult to express through speeches and difficult to write down. But I would really like to thank you all. HGC does not only operate with social workers, parents and staff, Although I am not entirely sure about the nature of the board, I know that the support of the board is really important in continuing to support the homeless girls with accommodation services. This place is not only a place of shelter for us, but also a home, a home full of love.
From Small Potato