Hello – my name is Maria and I’m a Vision First Volunteer. I would like to share my experience taking 56 members to a beach BBQ on Easter Sunday. My story starts the Saturday before at 11pm when I finished texting the families who participated. I sighed and smiled. Finally everything was set after a long week of planning. The trip was on despite hours of struggling to decide whether I should cancel it due to pouring rain on Good Friday. Saturday had been dry and I hoped the weather would hold for this big occasion. As with organizing any project, surprises and uncertainties never cease. Sunday morning came with rain, wind, and a drop in temperature. I kept getting SMS from the families: they worried about the weather as some had to come from as far as Yuen Long with young children. I texted back to postpone meeting till 12:30 which gave me time to decide and them time to reach Star Ferry in Central.
I began to toss a few contingency plans in my head, but nothing seemed to work. No more thinking. I went to church. At 10:30 the weather didn’t get any worse. There was a little drizzle, but the wind died down. I knew we should go. I started to text everyone again and, to my great relief, only two families didn’t want to come. My spirits were lifted and I went with my son AJ to Star Ferry in a large rental bus for the trip to Big Wave Bay. The families showed up one by one, their faces glowing with smiles against a gloomy skyline. All of them, except the Egyptian family I sponsor, were new to me and most of them had names that challenged my memory. AJ started mingling with a few boys his age, his ‘new best friends.’ They passed out bottled water and drinks while we waited for the last members to arrive. When the bus started its engine it was already 1:30. By now the excited group had become a hungry crowd of children and parents. I did prepare some sandwiches for the bus ride, but I made a cultural mistake: half of the sandwiches had bacon that many couldn’t eat. I felt bad and sincerely apologized. I dug up all the snacks I brought: candy, chocolate, chips and more junk food. Instead of the grumbling complaints I expected, my new friends gracefully accepted whatever I offered and returned smiles of gratitude. We were all happy to be together on this little adventure.
We arrived at the beach slightly after 2pm and everything thereafter was touched by the grace of God: nobody got injured (despite one getting rescued!) hurt or was even unhappy. Eight young men from Somalia left immediately and dove into the sea to challenge the high waves at Big Wave Bay. They would later recall they were four meters tall! Children stood there looking at them with envy as they were forbidden to enter the freezing water. The kids had loads of fun between the shoreline and the BBQ spot we made our base. Pizzas were served to fill empty stomachs, while parents tested their skills firing the BBQ and cooking. It was something new for them, especially using the Hong Kong style BBQ forks and wire. Within an hour, the parents had become experts at cooking over burning charcoals and the kids enjoyed barbecuing marshmallows. By then everyone was running around freely, laughing, screaming and playing along the soft sandy beach hunting for Easter Eggs. Later we had a Sand Digging Competition between boys and girls – and the girls won. The day felt short when we had to leave. When the last guys boarded the bus it was already pitch black outside. Now everyone had become my “old friend” and I asked them: “If you are happy … say a big YES!” There followed the long YES that seemed to echo forever. Hearing that, I felt it was one of the happiest moments I remembered. When we said goodbye at the final stop, I knew I would remember this day for the rest of my life. That night I shared with AJ that we should do it again and next time invite our Hong Kong friends and their children too, because we know they will experience a blissful day that will stay with them forever – thank you!