Helping refugee kids go to school

Post Date: Jan 17th, 2011 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

Vision First is supporting 27 families: half with 1 or 2 kids, several with 3 or 4 and one with 6 kids. We thank YOU wholeheartedly for listening to our plea and offering your assistance. Not only the 7 RCS kids, but all 52 Vision First children are doing fine. They have safe homes, though only a few have sufficient space. They have food from ISS and donations we receive. They have winter clothes, but never enough. They are mostly in school, thanks to the Education Bureau that places those under 14 in Primary and sometimes Secondary schools. We even helped one paraplegic boy enter a special needs school in Meifoo: a van picks him up in the morning and returns him to Shamshuipo at 4pm. The happiest experience for these kids is GOING TO SCHOOL. It’s somewhat surprising, but their impoverished circumstances make them appreciate the value (and fun?) of a school routine, escaping the hopelessness of refugee life, to meet and mingle with children from the broader community. There are pitfalls, naturally, and it’s saddening to hear a mother say: “Before we arrived in Hong Kong, my boys were so good. They listened to me and were respectful. Now they want mobile phones. They want wallets. They want money to buy icecream and snacks like the other children. They even get angry when I tell them we can’t join the class for excursions or o ice-skate because we have no money. Then they get angry because we are poor. They don’t understand. They just want to be like the other students.” Counseling parents through such difficulties is far from easy.

While the families have food, they don’t receive enough baby formula and ISS (the Social Welfare Department equivalent for refugees) never gives diapers. Any parent can imagine how tricky that can be. I saw a documentary on how a Nigerian village mother solved the problem: she lifted her baby with two hands, wiped its bottom on her left knee, put the baby down and wiped her knee with a corn cob! Well, that’s not ideal in Kowloon. This need prompted us to act fast and through a sister organization (Christian Concern for the Homeless Association we received a first shipment of Pampers. 1300 pieces which formed a two meter wide stack from floor to ceiling, enough to hide several men, and that was just for size XL (12-17Kg babies)! Made us realize why many NGO don’t deal with nappies, because without strong logistics diapers can quickly fill up storage rooms. The next requirement is baby formula and we hope to strike a deal for a monthly donation to get started. The Vine church reacted enthusiastically to our Pampers delivery and immediately asked if we could get formula as they have great need for it (being so expensive!) If you know anyone with connections to these products, please get us in touch with them.

Families are our priorities. Returning from Christmas holidays, we spent two weeks visiting them all, leaving singles to hold tight as we realize children need to be assisted first. We were planning a children shelter in Sai Ying Poon for Spring 2011, but since our main priority is an office, we are concentrating efforts to open one in February, to then brainstorm the shelter possibility. Unsurprisingly, funding is always the issue and although we can get a rent-free space, we need to carefully access how to best employ donations vis-à-vis members’ pressing needs. It’s a painful triage, but a task we are used to: determining which needs are most pressing, which cannot be delayed and which can wait for further funding. In short, charities are always at the mercy of SERENDIPITY (to give it a positive spin) and we trust good things will happen at the right time, as they have since we started the Vision First mission. In closing, this movie poster cropped as an inspirational picture, eloquently conveys a child’s joy at education, irrespective of the calamities that strike family and surrounding. Kids appreciate school more than they let know, and at Vision First we are proud to accompany many along the paths of education. Thank you for your continuing support and please spread the word always!

Educating the future