Operation Santa Claus

Inspiring others to follow their dreams

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 January, 2013, 5:17am

Charles Tai Chiu-nung was destined from birth to live a life very different from others.

Born with a rare disease, he is wheelchair-bound, has to be attached to a ventilator, and can move only two of his fingers.

But this has not stopped the 25-year-old from visiting schools in recent years to encourage Hong Kong students by sharing his experiences - like sitting a public exam in 2010 and pursuing his hobby of photography.

"I just don't want them to waste their time and not do their homework. I don't want them to give up on their lives and dreams," said Tai.

He was born with mucolipidosis, a metabolic disorder that limits many of his physical abilities, and doctors thought he would not survive childhood.

But his mother, Bandy Chiu Wai-chun, said he longs for a chance to study like others.

"It is by God's grace that he has lived for 25 years now. That's why we're so willing to share his story with people," said Chiu. "Through sharing, he found that he's a useful person, not just lying there all the time."

Tai cannot turn a page or hold a pen, but with the help of specially designed computers, he has been having regular lessons with the Red Cross Hospital School at the Duchess of Kent Children's Hospital in Sandy Bay.

The school, which provides education for children in hospitals in different parts of Hong Kong, is one of Operation Santa Claus' 18 beneficiaries this year.

Though Tai only studied one subject, commerce, for the 2010 Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, he put all possible effort into it.

"He worked so hard and wouldn't go to sleep," Chiu said. "I found that my son was very special. I learned from him that results don't really matter as long as we enjoy the process."

Chiu said she had asked "why me?" after she gave birth to her son, and used to feel lonely and helpless in taking care of him. Now she thinks differently.

Tai too, has not always had such a positive attitude.

"He has grown to be more understanding. Now he will even pray for people he doesn't like," Chiu said.

He learned to appreciate life further through photography - a hobby he has developed in recent years. Using a camera attached to the front of his wheelchair, he discovered the fun of snapping pictures using a button attached to the camera with a cable.

One of his favourite photo spots is the waterfront at Sandy Bay. Chiu recalled how touched she was when Tai took a first picture for her and her husband under the sunset.

"My son has brought our family together. He is such a blessing."