Helping to ease life's burdens
LIVING in a 200-square-foot flat with a two-year-old son suffering from cancer and a one-year-old daughter would be enough strain for any parent to bear.
But Tuen Mun mother Yeung Wun Lai-hung had an added worry - another son was about to be born.
How could she possibly care for him as well, and if she couldn't, who could? It is a question facing many parents with considerably less on their plate than Mrs Yeung.
The need for two incomes in a family, a dead or missing parent, or an ailing family member are just some reasons why parents turn to an outside service such as the Society for the Protection of Children for assistance.
The society is the beneficiary of this year's Operation Santa Claus and is hoping to raise money so it can upgrade its existing services, which provide creche and day-care facilities for children up to the age of six, and introduce after-school care for children aged six to 12.
Many of the parents using the service might otherwise be forced to leave their children alone or, in cases like Mrs Yeung, be too over-stretched to offer their child proper care.
Mrs Yeung's husband was not able to provide the relief she needed because he was busy working shifts in a garment factory, making about $6,000 a month to support his family.
When she considered friends or family who might help, she came up empty handed.
'My husband's and my parents are all in China and we had just moved to Tuen Mun and hadn't had time to make friends,' she said.
But the social workers at Tuen Mun Hospital were alerted to her plight and recommended she place her third child, Chi-lok, now one-year-old, in the society's residential creche to free herself of at least one demand while she coped with helping her older boy recover from his cancer treatment.
The residential creche can hold up to 120 children who come from families with acute social problems.
Some of the children at the creche are referred by court order, abandoned, or orphaned.
Another 625 children are accommodated in 10 day creches.
The society also operates day-care services for older children who come from low-income and other needy families.
The staff care for the children on a tightly-run schedule that allows for regular meals, playtime and, when they are old enough, walking and toilet training.
Mrs Yeung visits her child every Saturday and is still busy with her older son who requires regular check-ups at the hospital and close attention because he is not yet walking.
'It would have been very difficult for me to have to carry around two children at the same time,' she said. 'I would have been under very great pressure without this centre.' Chi-lok, whose stay at the centre is fully subsidised by the Government, will be allowed to remain there until he is two, when he will return to hopefully happier circumstances at home.
Mrs Yeung added: 'I would like to appeal to people to support the society so it can help more needy families in Hong Kong.'