Joseph Jao-Yiu Sung: Giving young people opportunity, returns beyond imagination

The government has always encouraged companies to give young people more opportunities to stay in society. In particular, the background of some teenagers may be more complicated than others: they have different nationalities, physical disabilities, emotional problems, and even drug abuse, fighting and other illegal acts. Even if the ability to work is no different from others, or they have been trying hard to rehabilitate, they are still marginalized by the society, saying that they will not discriminate and respect social integration, but the organizations who really gives them learning and working experiences are really few, they are still labelled by society. Is it the disadvantaged not worth a chance to reborn? or those with tattoos do not deserve to rehabilitate?

The issue of relocation of the Christian Zheng Sheng College is still fresh in memory. This private high school, which specializes in providing a place for students with deviations in mood and behavior, is located on a hillside in Ha Keng on Lantau Island. The classrooms, kitchens are constructed in zinc iron, there are 40 bunk beds in a 800 feet dormitory, there are only pit toilets, students and teachers have to clean up the accumulated excrements regularly. The water source depends on the reservoir that flows down the mountain, and the school does not have warm water facilities. Therefore, in winter, students and teachers have to wash in cold water. The poor learning environment forced the principal Chan Siu Cheuk to relocate the school. However, the plan was laid off because of concerns about law and order from the residents. Mr. Chan could only raise funds to renovate the school building on the original site. The incident not only reflects the widespread social labeling effect, but also shows that the problem is only a tip of iceberg.

Staying and learning, building mutual trust

Discrimination stems from misunderstandings. Misunderstanding stems from a lack of communication, cognition and understanding. The president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Dr. Joseph Jao-Yiu Sung tried to break the inherent concept and act as the rold model.

He shared at a banquet of the Child Development Initiative Alliance(CDIA), saying that he once had a thought: if you can let the students of Zhengsheng College, without reducing the criteria for entering the university, to be enrolled in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, even if there are only one or two students, this already can encourage other students with similar backgrounds to rekindle their hopes. So he personally called the person in charge of Zhengsheng College and told him his thoughts. Not only that, in order to improve their English and increase their chances of being admitted to the University, Principal Sung, through the assistance of Zhengsheng College, arranged several students to go to his dormitory regularly to study English. He taught them from table manners to various details of daily life,  enhanced their ability to read, write, listen, and speak in English. In order to improve their learning efficiency, they even stay at the home of President Sung.

Principal Sung said frankly that he initially had the same misunderstanding as the other people, discriminating these students in the class. “I remember that once in the morning, I went out running as usual. But then I thought there were only 4 men and my wife at my home, three of the men have tattoos! Should I return home immediately?” However, he did not do this in the end because he is convinced that since they give them the opportunity to learn and rehabilitate, they should believe them. In fact, the result is beyond the imaginations! 

“I treat him as my son.”

Learning does not only strengthen their English language skills, but also gives them the opportunity to build self-confidence and self-image. President Sung said: “In the past, they built up poor self-image, you can say they are treated as garbage. But through this kind of mentoring relationship, they would understand that no matter how menial they were in the past, the society, including the government, the education system and the business sector, would not abandon them. The entrepreneurs who joined the mentorship program could together deliver a message to the youth: Our companies do not lack employees, and we can hire suitable employees from time to time too. Just that we would like to tell the young people through this program that the society cares about them and we would like to give them chances  to build their self- image. This is much more important than just a job!”

Principal Sung frankly said that this kind of mentoring internship plan is more meaningful than he expected. He quoted from Mark Twain, the famous American humorist, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can See.”, and said, “You only have to give them an opportunity, and they can feel it, cherish it, and give a return to it.”

“I have a student named Ah Dung. After spending days and nights with him, I see him as my son. He also calls me Dad on Facebook. I remember that one year in Christmas, he and two of his classmates came to my dormitory wearing uniform, they said they cannot think of a better gift for me, so they gave me a handmade scarf. When I received the scarf, I felt warm and sweet. This is what I want to say, helping them is actually helping ourselves. During this mentorship program, the rewards are more than imagined.” Now, he and the other three students have successfully entered the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Sung added: “If you are willing to help this group of young people, I strongly suggest that you join the mentorship program for one to two months instead of one week. Only by this you can build relationship with them and help them with the work.”

The Social Enterprise Academy is promoting a project called Project MI (M: Mentorship, I: Internship) to allow companies fulfilling social responsibility and those who concern about social issues to join the program. The program would be held in an individual or in a group, students including those from secondary schools, higher education institutes and overseas schools would be arranged to meet the mentor regularly. They would also be having internships in the companies. In addition to helping companies to recruit talents and enhance their corporate image, they can also help students to build social networks and obtain real-world work experience. It is expected that the first internship program will begin in the winter of 2019, and any interested companies can go to further information and registration.

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