Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
Good Morning, my name is Jolian CHUI, the Assistant Director of Programme at International Social Service Hong Kong Branch. Among my other roles at the Agency, I have been a front-line social worker to serve the New Arrivals, and the Community in SSP South District. I started to serve cross border students and their families 7 years ago. It’s really a rewarding experience to me.
The COVID pandemic has dealt all of us a heavy blow in the past three years, but I think you will agree with me, that Cross-boundary students were one of the groups being the hardest hit. If an adult can be easily distracted and tempted to work on something else during a zoom meeting, just imagine how engaging online classes could possibly be for a child or a teenager, and picture having them every day for three whole years. The kids understandably lack motivation to study, and many got addicted to internet games, are glued to their tablets or computers all the time and are not interested in going out anymore. All these then lead to conflicts with parents and sour parent-child relationships. Three years of online classes have had a huge impact on these students, including studies, psychological health, social life and family relationships – in fact their overall growth and development to be exact.
Throughout the pandemic, we at ISS-HK continued to provide various types of services to ease their plight. Our three service centres in Shenzhen have been collaborating with the Education Bureau to provide physical classes of learning and psychological support to maintain their learning, communication, social, and emotional development and to re-establish a support network among them. We also came up with the innovative examination service in Luohu, Nanshan and Futian, whereby we assist primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong in organizing examination sessions, so the Cross-boundary students can sit for their examinations like their classmates in Hong Kong do. In the school year 2021-22, a total of 288 examination sessions were arranged, and more than 1,200 students took part.
Still, nothing compares to the actual school life they are deprived of – face-to-face interaction with teachers, spending recess with classmates and taking part in after-school activities. We are thrilled when the government finally announced that it was planning for cross border parents to go back to school after the Chinese New Year. We wanted to know the parents’ plans moving forward, as well as their service needs as we enter a new phase. Thus, we conducted a survey among cross border families from December 29 2022 to January 3, 2023, and received 1,013 questionnaires. Out of those parents who said their kids will continue their studies in Hong Kong, which is 97% of those surveyed, 92% will resume their daily trips across the border, between their homes in Shenzhen and schools in Hong Kong.
The government announced just a few days back that travelers between Hong Kong and China are no longer required to conduct the PCR test prior to travelling. This is music to cross border parents’ ears, and many of them are planning to send their kids to their schools in Hong Kong as soon as possible after the announcement. Although many are very much looking forward to it, we found out that they faced numerous issues, and whether they can really go back to school anytime soon after the CNY school holidays is still unknown.
Almost 70% of those surveyed had family members who needed to replace their identity cards or travel documents. And over 37% said they were not aware of the latest transportation arrangements regarding their children’s daily commuting across the border after it reopens. We hope the government can put in extra effort in processing their travel documents, and work with the transportation industry to resume cross border school bus services. With many of these children and teenagers commuting daily to and from school on their own, it is important for the students to be able to stick to the routes they are most familiar with. 34% of the families surveyed said they hoped their children to travel across the border via the Lo Wu control point. But the Lo Wu checkpoint is not open at this point, so we urge the government to consider opening this checkpoint as soon as possible.
Even when all these logistical issues are sorted out, parents are concerned about their children’s progress in studies, social ability, language and communication skills – which understandably lag behind their counterparts in Hong Kong. Let me give you some examples. For those who are in Primary 3 and Secondary Form 3, this will be their first time to actually set foot in their own schools. For DSE students, all their high school years have been spent on internet classes and when they finally come back to school, they are already sitting for their mock examination. These students, among others, do need a lot of support in adapting to post-COVID life, whether it is inside and outside of schools. We at ISS-HK are confident to continue working hand in hand with the government and schools in welcoming these youngsters back into our arms – to let them know that they are never forgotten, and help them feel proud of their identity as a part of Hong Kong, their home and our home. I would like to dedicate the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver to our cross-border students and all Hong Kong people. May our roads ahead be safe and smooth.
Hello, my name is So Yeon. I am working as a student intern in Soap Cycling, a charity that recycles lightly used soaps from hotels to bring better hygiene to those who need it the most and help fight the waste crisis in Hong Kong.
It is only one month until Christmas and the holiday season until Chinese New year! The season of gifts, sharing and spreading love. How are you planning to spend the season of joy? Going on a trip for a special holiday experience? Well, I am convinced that at least some of you have booked luxurious hotels in Hong Kong for a ‘staycation’. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, ‘staycation’ means a vacation that you spend near your home rather than traveling to another place. There was a local staycation boom in Hong Kong for a while, especially when the pandemic has hit the city in 2020 and 2021.
Spending quality time in a hotel is certainly a nice way to take a break and recharge yourself. However, have you ever thought of where all the used soaps or shampoos that you have left behind end up? Most of the hotels provide fresh soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner as basic amenities every day. They come in a fancy plastic packaging, and are replaced everyday even when the guest has not finished using it. More than 2 million bars of soap are discarded by hotels in Hong Kong every year, which can actually fill in volumes of 400 carpark lots.
This seemingly trivial problem has a huge environmental impact on our community. This triggered Soap Cycling to start the journey to promote hygiene and protect our environment. We collect the lightly used soaps and other sanitation amenities from hotels, and recycle them and bring them into the hands of those who need them the most. Soap Cycling works in Hong Kong and Singapore, and also receives soaps from hotels in South Korea and Japan. The recycled soaps are shipped to the Philippines to support school hygiene programs; hygiene kits and liquid soaps are distributed only locally to underprivileged people with the help of our NGO partners.
While trying to take a role in bringing about a more sustainable world, Soap Cycling also aims to create a socially inclusive community. Our MEY Program, which stands for the Cantonese word “mey” for beauty and M minorities, E elderly, and Y youth, provides employment opportunities for these often marginalized community members.
…When you come to one of our recycling sessions run by student interns, our friendly and talented elderly workers will always be there to give you a hand. Should you choose to learn how to make soap from scratch, our soap master ladies with a minority background will be your teachers.
Joining some of the educational interactive sessions at our warehouse is an entertaining way you can support our core work as an NGO. Our mission to reduce waste needs as many supporters as possible, and we cannot emphasize enough the important role of individuals choosing to join the cause in addressing environmental concerns. Small actions and decisions make a big difference. We have a lot of tips on how you can turn this Holiday Season into a season of giving and truely spreading love to all. If you want to protect the environment, and are willing to make a step forward, let’s start from there together.
Here are some very easy steps you can take while you enjoy a staycation or vacation at a hotel to make it more eco-friendly. First, bring a bar soap of yours to the hotel! Bar soaps do not have plastic overwrap or packaging, which contribute to reducing plastic waste that is thrown into landfill without being recycled. Another positive impact of natural bar soaps is that it does not have the chemical polluting the water often found in liquid soaps. Many bar soaps come with organic ingredients, with so many benefits- why not change to bar soap entirely and get rid of all the plastic waste at home, too? Second, you can make a request to the hotel not to replace single-used plastic hygiene kits. Hygiene kits in hotels, including shampoos, hair conditioners, and hand washes are replaced everyday. Most of the products are single use plastic, which is a great waste of resources since disposable plastic items cannot biodegrade. Ask yourself whether you can finish using the shampoos or soaps within one day. For most of you, the answer would be no. So when you go on a staycation, just call the front desk and tell them there is no need to change your amenities every day!
There are a myriad of decisions one can choose to make in order to make a positive environmental impact. It does not have to be a big move. And it can be fun, too! Here, the good news is that Soap Cycling is co-hosting a Christmas market with The Green Hospitality from 23rd to 27th of December in West Cultural Kowloon District, and we are selling a variety of handmade MEY soaps. Visiting a Christmas market is great fun! What about giving some unique bar soaps as a Christmas gift for your friends and families this year? Isn’t it a genuine Christmas spirit, reflecting others on what’s really important in our lives?