Daily Archives: January 16, 2014

Wanted – organisers of Ethical Consumer week.

Posted by Peter MUIR

DC will again be hosting the Ethical Consumer Week next month, and we are looking for Year 10 students to organize it.  Those who sign up will be work together to organize to create awareness about what it means to be an ethical consumer, and the impact we as consumers have on our Earth and each other. Keen to get involved?  Then click here to sign up.  Places are limited, so sign up asap (and yes, your involvement could be considered a C&S project).

Supporting our neighbours

Posted by Peter MUIR

A number of DC students have been active in delivering community engagement activities in Yat Tung, an estate in the Tung Chung area.  Here is a report on the group’s work, written by Year 12 student Boris Choy.

Ironically enough, applying international mindedness, a key aspect of IB programmes, can sometimes mean a lack of focus on issues that are closer to home.  Home is Hong Kong, the country where we all live. Being a hub of expat activity, Discovery Bay is a prime example of a community with little incidence of, or exposure to, many of the real-life problems threatening the Hong Kong demographic. To be frank, we live very privileged lifestyles, blessed with surplus and good education.

Not all of the same can be said about other areas of Hong Kong including our very own next-door neighbour, Tung Chung.  In regards to areas like this, we are sometimes told by our parents to avoid them, “for your own safety” they say. Yet, while we can ignore the impoverished or underdeveloped neighbourhoods and live in isolation, it does not change the nature of their existence. Outside of the business districts and the suburban lifestyle we find ourselves in are indications of Hong Kong’s massive wealth disparity.

Yat Tung Estate is a government subsidised residential structure provided for Tung Chung inhabitants, many of whom struggle to pay rent. A lot of these residents are patrons of the Comprehensive Social Security (CSS) programme, which provides financial support for basic housing and education. Located not so far from Tung Chung’s shiny central business district, the Yat Tung Estate houses half of Tung Chung’s resident population; many of these families have roots from Pakistani, Indian, Nepalese, and Mainland Chinese minority groups.

The majority of Yat Tung households suffer a huge financial struggle, as entire working families earn less than HKD 20,000 by the month. Money, or the shortage of it, is often the foundation for series of domestic problems such as violence, corporal punishment, and home gambling dens. Often cases have been found where women who have emigrated from the mainland cannot report cases of abuse because they rely on their husbands for residency or financial stability. Hong Kong triads and drug rings also take advantage of the neglected position these people are in to conduct illicit trade, often resulting in a path taken with negative results.

As a result of the impoverished lifestyle, the Yat Tung area has been plagued by tragedy in recent years. Often residents are reminded of their frustrating situations by incidences of suicide, gang violence, or drug related problems. This is a lifestyle that has taken its toll on the youth. With 40 percent of residents being under 18, a positive environment is essential to allow for a future or career outside of the poverty cycle that plagues Yat Tung. Without this positive environment, many find themselves subject to lives of petty crime or susceptible to involvement with the triads and the illicit drug trade.

Harriet Cheng, Discovery College’s social worker who also acts for the Neighbourhood Advice-Action Council, is offering solutions at a grassroots level. With 45 DC student-volunteers from Years 7-13, Harriet and her crew recently visited Yat Tung Estate. While they understand that change at government level will take time, they are not distracted from supporting what matters – the people. Often, volunteers find themselves in all sorts of places immersed in interaction with the community.

With focus towards the youth, they frequent Kindergartens, organising programmes of games and activities for to invoke a child’s creativity and initiative. This allows them to worry less about misfortunes close to them and gives them a chance to achieve something better. On the other side of the spectrum, Yat Tung is home to host of elderly people surviving on little or no income. What is worse, lack of family means that they are perpetually lonely. The prospect of cheerful volunteers gives them someone to talk to, someone to listen to, to share their stories with. “They all need someone there to know that they don’t have to go through all of it by themselves.” says Harriet, “Someone to show that people do care.”

Students have been humbled by how gratefully Yat Tung residents received them and their support. Year 11 DC student Chantel Woo found it “surprising how little gestures that don’t take much on our part, like taking the elderly oatmeal and toothbrushes, can really brighten up their day.”

Chantel felt also that by giving a little, she was receiving a little. She feels that her exposure to another side of Hong Kong has helped her break the international school bubble and better understand the disparity in Hong Kong, a reflection that Harriet aims to achieve for all her volunteers. “Because we are an international school, we focus on issues all over the world, but this sometimes leaves us isolated from all of the things happening around us.” attests Harriet, “These are the homes and the lives of Hong Kong people.” Such focus on local issues will help to support our own population.

For the Love of Erika

Posted by Peter MUIR

15-year-old Taylor Leong from the US founded “For the Love of Erika“, an annual holiday toy drive that provides children in hospitals and homeless shelters with gifts during the holidays, in 2005 in honour of her best friend Erika Gould, who passed away from brain cancer. Taylor used her talent of making gifts for Erika, with her passion for uplifting people’s spirits, in order to grieve the loss of her best friend, and as well to bring smiles to children’s faces during the holidays.  In the past nine years, Taylor has collected and personally delivered more than 8,000 gifts to disadvantaged children during the holiday season. “For the Love of Erika” has partnerships with 6 hospitals and 15 homeless shelters and through her partnerships with local businesses, Taylor also hosts three annual holiday parties for more than six homeless shelters that have raised more than $200,000 since its founding.  Taylor aspires to expand “For the Love of Erika” throughout hew home state, as well as to engage more youth in her community in service opportunities.

The Women’s Foundation Discussion Group

Posted by Peter MUIR

The Women’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in Hong Kong, is seeking a small group of students to participate in a discussion group about the role and presence of women in the local media.   The information gained from the discussion group will be used as a part of The Women’s Foundation’s production of a Hong Kong version of the American documentary, Miss Representation.

This film has been developed to address the issue of gender stereotyping in the Hong Kong media, which has damaging consequences for the self-esteem and well-being of women and girls. TWF’s documentary will explore how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and disparaging portrayals of women.

The discussion group will be facilitated at by the film’s director, radio-personality Crystal Kwok, and it should prove to be an educational and empowering experience for those students invovled. Ideally, the students would be able to speak both English and Cantonese and we would be able to meet with them before the Chinese New Year holidays.

At this time, the foundation is looking for a group of 6 to 8 girls and 6 to 8 boys, between the ages of 12 to 18, that can speak both English and Cantonese.  The first meeting will take place from 4:00pm to 6:00pm on one of the following dates – January 26th, 27th, 28th or 29th (to be based on student availability).  If you are interested, please email directly The Women’s Foundation’s Senior Officer Tiffany Leung at tiffany@thewomensfoundationhk.org