I remember the time in 2011 when I first joined a Cantonese class at Vision First. The first week everything was OK and our teacher was Owen, who is now a TV reporter. The next week he was absent. We all thought he was late.
Then the manager Danielle (co-founder of VF) said: “If your teacher isn’t here in five minutes, the class will be cancelled and you can come back next week”. We were all disappointed as learning Cantonese is essential to live in Hong Kong.
I remember it was a Friday. Suddenly something told me to say: “Let me try!” I told Danielle: “If the teacher couldn’t make it, don’t let people go home disappointed. Please allow me to teach today.” The staff at Vision First discussed my offer and joked, “Abel, Abel! You can only teach French, not Cantonese!”
I insisted they let me try once and they allowed me. After the end of an hour teaching, I was surprised when the students stood up and clapped. I told myself that day: “I can do this!” Afterwards some students reported to Danielle and asked that I teach every week, or at least be the replacement teacher.
The following week Owen returned and was aware about my success the previous week. He asked if I would be available once a week to teach a class, because we had two Cantonese class weekly. Later, he assigned me to teach both lessons, so he could teach Mandarin instead.
I have been in Hong Kong over a decade and I am fluent in Cantonese. More time went by and some organizations heard about me and wanted to see the BLACK MAN born in Africa teaching Cantonese to fellow refugees.
Recently, members of Global Youth Connect and their Hong Kong affiliate “Breakthrough” came to follow my class. At the end, they were amazed and one of them was even moved to tears.
For a few months I have taught the Cantonese class for the Refugee Union and I believe my students are proud of me. This is my story of service. What is yours?