Love is the only drug for Town Island sweethearts

Lam Chi-ho found his wife on the isolated island where he beat a 20-year addiction to crystal meth, and she was teaching recovering addicts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2013, 3:21am

Lam Chi-ho overcame a two-decade-long addiction to drugs on a remote island off Sai Kung, where he found God and the love of his life.

Chi-ho, 38, had been addicted to cough syrup and crystal meth since he was 15. He had tried to quit many times before, succeeding in 2009, after spending nine months at a drug rehabilitation centre run by Christian group Operation Dawn on Town Island.

After recovering, Chi-ho stayed on the island as a volunteer, and is now employed there full time. Since it only serves adult males, Chi-ho's first sighting of his future wife there in February 2011 left a big impression on him.

Wendy Hui Yuk-ying, 36, was assigned to teach English, Chinese and maths for five months on the island. She had previously taught in the women's ministry of Operation Dawn - the Sisters' Home, of which she is now the warden. Back then, she was intimidated by the male-heavy environment.

"I grew up attending an all-girls school, and in church I would hang out with girls, so I didn't have a lot of close contact with males," Wendy said.

Chi-ho was assigned to be Wendy's teaching assistant and was touched by how she cared for her students.

Wendy, meanwhile, began to rely on Chi-ho for his wisdom and life experience.

Chi-ho was impressed by Wendy's resilience in dealing with the students. "You have to understand that these students who used to abuse drugs aren't going to sit there obediently and listen to you, they are quite rebellious," he said.

"I really liked how she approached students during lunch to ask how they were." As the island was so remote, Chi-ho worried about Wendy's safety when she undertook the 15-minute hike from the pier to the rehabilitation centre, and made sure he was there to escort her. When she was having trouble sleeping, he was the first to offer the remedy of bitter gourd tea. "I love the way he pays attention to details when showing he cares," she said.

When her assignment on the island ended, their feelings grew stronger, as they kept in touch via Facebook. "I began to take more notice of other girls who were posting on his wall," Wendy said.

On their first date the couple went to see a movie and realised how natural they felt around each other, so much so that they waited only five months before getting hitched.

Wendy had never been in a relationship before, and it had been a long time since Chi-ho had dated anyone.

"I had been addicted to drugs for so long and didn't want to be a burden on anyone," he said.

With his history of drug abuse and having only studied up to Form Two, Chi-ho initially felt insecure around Wendy, who has a history degree.

But Wendy was not worried. "In my work as a teacher, I had trouble understanding my students' struggles with drug addiction. I could be quite strict. Chi-ho taught me to understand their circumstances."

But it was her headstrong nature that made Chi-ho fall in love with her. "What I like about her is that she has this innocent confidence," he said.

Wendy was concerned her family might not accept Chi-ho, but as he was now a changed man, they had no problem.

The couple registered their marriage on September 24. They will wed today at the Beautiful Gate Baptist Church in Sham Shui Po, and will spend their honeymoon in the mainland seaside city of Qingdao .