Teens help the charity that helped them

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am

Three teenagers are giving back to society what it has given them when they were babies.

Every Sunday for three hours in the past three months, Chinese International School Year 12 students Sebastian Turner and Tanya Ryan have been volunteer carers at the Mother's Choice charity.

West Island School's Daniel Tin-chi Chapman will begin his volunteer work this month at the charity's Wee Care for babies and children.

The three 16-year-olds were adopted as babies. They are among 350 part-time volunteers at the charity, set up in 1987 to provide a temporary home for teen mothers.

The youngsters said that while their volunteer work met the requirements of their schools' community service programme, it was more than school that drove them back to the facility in Bowen Road, Mid-Levels.

'It's about returning to the place that housed me when I was [very young],' said Sebastian, who realised only recently that Daniel had been his buddy at Mother's Choice.

Sebastian was three months old when he had his 15 minutes of fame on June 11, 1991. His adoptive parents, now-retired television newsreader Michelle Han and public relations adviser Tony Turner, were featured in a South China Morning Post story when they picked him up to bring him home under a system introduced by the Social Welfare Department to promote local adoptions.

Today, Mother's Choice is capping its 20th anniversary celebration with a party among foster families and adoptive families.

'I don't remember a time when I realised I was adopted; I've always known it,' said Tanya, daughter of former Mother's Choice managing director Gretchen Ryan.

The three teens constantly teased one another, and were happily entertaining three-year-old girl triplets who were visiting the centre. The triplets were adopted from the mainland through Mother's Love, an allied orphanage in Guangxi .

But there was palpable silence when the trio were asked if they thought about their biological parents. Tanya, one of four children adopted by the Ryans, who are from the United States, said it was her mother who had an 'emotional nightmare. I was very young when I asked, 'mummy, where is my biological mother?' Apparently, she burst into tears'.

Sebastian, who is one-quarter-Danish, said he learned he was adopted when he was seven. As for searching for his biological parents, he said: 'I grew up understanding that I would probably never see them. It doesn't really have an impact on my life whether or not I see them.'

Daniel, whose adoptive parents are British, said most people would want to see their biological mother. 'I am not angry or anything [about my background].' He said he was just happy that he had a family.

'I remember my dad telling one of my relatives, 'Daniel is Chinese'. She said, 'He is?' She was so astonished, she forgot I was adopted.'

Tanya said she wrote letters to her biological mother when she was younger. 'I have not written to her recently. It's just right now, I don't have the burning [desire] to see her.'

On teenage pregnancy, the three said their work at Mother's Choice had been an affirmation that it was something that should be avoided.

'We come here for three hours and it is hard,' Tanya said. 'Can you imagine having a baby at home, having to go to school and doing your homework?'

For more information, visit www.motherschoice.org or call hotline 2868 2022.

Years of caring

Mother's Choice has been helping women and girls for 20 years

The number of women it has helped cope with crisis pregnancies in that time: 12,000