Volunteers help children whose parents suffer from mental illness, writes Wong Yat-hei
Everybody wants to lead a happy life and have a loving family. But this was just a dream for 13-year-old Ruby Li. She was unhappy, living with her mentally ill father, until she was referred to Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service by a social worker.
Ruby joined the service's Stand by U project, which looks after the needs of children aged six to 12 who have a parent that is suffering from mental illness. The project is one of this year's beneficiaries of the annual charity appeal, Operation Santa Claus, co-organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.
Ruby said she used to dislike her father because he always screamed at her and her mother for no reason. After joining the programme, Ruby was able to learn more about her father's condition and how to cope with it.
'Counsellors talked to me about my father's condition,' she said. 'I'm no longer angry with him as I understand he is sick. The project also offers many activities like birthday parties and kite-flying for families like mine to get together and have a good time.'
Ruby's mother was also grateful, saying the programme has done a lot for her family.
'The project has given us funding to renovate our home. Now Ruby has her own room,' she said.
Stand by U's Big Brother Big Sister programme also provides volunteers who visit families once or twice a week to provide free tutoring to the children. Ruby's mother said the mentorship scheme has helped her daughter's school work.
'We couldn't afford to send Ruby for tuition classes. Without the programme, there is no way she could have a tutor,' she said.
Meanwhile, another child who has been helped by the mentorship programme, Kong Tsz-wing, said it had brought happiness and positive energy to her family.
The 10-year-old, who lives with her mother in a public housing estate, said: 'The volunteers visit my home twice a week to help me with my school work. My academic results have improved and my mother is very happy.'
She added that the activities organised by the Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service had been a big help in improving her relationship with her mother.
'I've also made a lot of new friends ...and I hope we will receive some funds to renovate our home. I want to get a new desk because the one I am using now is too shaky to write on. I am also hoping for a new water heater.'
Volunteer Gloria Chung Yin-nga said children whose parents are suffering from mental illness are neglected in Hong Kong. 'This group is not getting enough attention and they are sorely in need of help. As a volunteer, I not only help the children with their school work, but also care about their well-being,' she said.
'Besides home visits to tutor the children, I accompany them to activities organised by the Stand by U Project. It feels great when you know the child is having a good time.'
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