Keeping them off the streets

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2011, 12:00am


Joseph Lee fears two of his six children would have ended up on the streets without the help of the St James' Settlement charity's programme to provide learning and food assistance to deprived families in Sham Shui Po.

Lee used to work in the catering industry but quit his job more than a year ago because he was not happy with the way his wife ran the family.

He relies on the Social Welfare Department's Comprehensive Social Security Assistance to feed six children, aged between three and 14.

Although the money from the government guarantees shelter, food and education for the family of eight, he says it is impossible for him to ensure the children do well at school and eat proper meals.

So he sent two of his offspring - son Lee Tsz-ching and daughter Lee Wing-hei - to the charity's programme for primary school children.

'I don't know what would have happened to my son and daughter [without the programme],' he said.

'I believe they would be doing rather badly at school or they might even have ended up on the streets.'

Project co-ordinator Han Luk-kwong said one of the objectives was to make sure the children had a proper dinner.

'For quite a number of the families we meet, the parents are so busy with their jobs that they can't cook for their children. So the kids end up grabbing whatever they can for dinner. Children do not have the concept of whether or not the food is nutritious,' Han said.

'Some of our kids would have biscuits for dinner if we were not providing hot food for them.'

Children joining the programme are either from families receiving social welfare or whose monthly income is between HK$4,000 and HK$5,000. The programme runs every afternoon during the week at a primary school in Sham Shui Po.

The charity has recruited several college students and retired teachers to teach the children, who have dinner at the school before they go home.

In order to ensure the pupils get a balanced diet, the tutors order extra vegetables and rice. When donations allow for it, they also buy fruit and breakfast packs, which include milk and cereal. But limited resources mean the charity cannot accept more children into the programme, which assists 30 pupils and has another 30 waiting for help.

A recent report on global wealth found that one in six families with children often suffer hunger in Hong Kong. The report described those children as being in a state of high food insecurity.

In light of the dire situation these families are in, the South China Morning Post's Heart of Hong Kong Relief Fund is raising money for the city's major food banks.

The campaign aims to raise funds for the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals' Food for All - Short-term Food Assistance Service and the People's Food Bank of St James' Settlement. Donation will be distributed equally to the two beneficiaries.

'Their service is particularly helpful for me. My son is rather naughty while my daughter was diagnosed with reading and writing difficulties,' Lee said.

'Now they have tutors to take care of their studies and also give them dinner, so I don't have to worry. With their assistance, I can concentrate on taking care of the younger ones.'


St James' Settlement's People's Food Bank

Established in 2003, the service provides food to people in need on a short-term basis, serving rice, noodles, canned food, frozen meat, vegetables, hot meals and baby milk formula to around 1,500 people a day.

Tung Wah Group of Hospitals' Food for All assistance service

Food for All has been providing short-term help to the needy since 2009. Some 165,000 people get rice, noodles, biscuits and powdered milk, as well as coupons for fresh meat, vegetables, fruits and cooked meals. Customised menus are also available.

How you can help these programmes

Make a donation by:

Direct transfer to HSBC account 502-676588-001 for SCMP Charities Ltd.

Cheque payable to 'SCMP Charities Ltd' and mail to: SCMP Charities Ltd, Morning Post Centre, 22 Dai Fat Street, Tai Po Industrial Estate, New Territories.

Donations of HK$100 or more are tax-deductible. For a tax receipt, please send us the original bank receipt with your name, address and phone number to the address above. Please call 2680 8159 with any inquiries.