Warming up for youth hotline
For most young people, July is a month of rest as they are off from school and enjoying their summer vacation. But for Annis Fung Lai-chu, 27, of Fanling, it means more work in her capacity as a counsellor with the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups. One of Miss Fung's main jobs is to help young people solve problems through a hotline which operates from 2 pm to 2 am. What's on your mind? I am thinking how to do my job best. Our hotline, the 'Youth Line' has been flooded with calls these days because of the start of the summer vacation. Most callers are young people who are off from school and cannot find teachers to share their problems during this time.
Every day more than 1,000 people try to call us but we can handle only about 80 calls. Many callers are put to automatic answering machines because we don't have enough social workers to talk to them directly and immediately. We can only have their names and numbers left and we try to contact them later.
What are you going to do about it? With limited resources, we can't do much more. We really hope we can employ more staff and expand the service. There's a great need for hotline services. Teenagers find it more comfortable to share their problems with us over the phone because they're not talking face to face. They can choose to conceal their names. They feel more secure and happy to talk this way.
What is the most common problem teenagers are calling about these days? Many are having difficulty finding summer jobs. They want to work during the vacation to earn some pocket money while finding out what some jobs and companies are like. But the high jobless rate means students have greater trouble securing a job. Some complain they are being cheated for money by unscrupulous employers.
And what is your advice? In serious cases involving cheating on pay, we transfer them to the Labour Department. But we always aim to do preventive work by advising teenagers to talk to their parents, friends or social workers before signing contracts.