Challenge for youngsters caught in cycle of problems

City teenagers among 20 finalists who will embark on 400km bicycle ride from disaster-stricken Kaohsiung to test limit of their endurance

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 6:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 6:10am

A young mainland immigrant is determined to test the limits of his endurance, starting in the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung which is still reeling from catastrophic gas explosions.

Chan Chi-keung, 20 - who migrated to Hong Kong from Jiangxi with his mother in December - is among 20 high-school students from the city who will embark on a six-day 400km cycling trip from Kaohsiung to Taipei starting today.

Finalists in the two-stage training programme titled "Adversity Challengers" run by Youth New World, a non-profit organisation, were selected from 130 contestants aged 15 to 18 in July after passing a series of endurance tests.

Ben Choy Ho-lun, of Youth New World, which provides educational support for children from low-income families, said some parents of the final contestants voiced concerns about the trip shortly after the gas explosions.

He said they immediately contacted their partner bicycle rental company in Kaohsiung, who conducted a test ride along the planned routes to ensure they were safe.

The explosions took place in a different district of the city and do not affect the planned routes.

"We intend to instil in our [final] contestants the notion that they really need to bite the bullet if they want to stand any chance of realising their dreams," Choy said.

As a new arrival from the mainland, Chan says he has been the target of discriminatory slurs at his school and has been compared to parallel traders.

"By participating in this endurance-boosting programme, I want to prove to everyone that I am just as capable as those born and bred in Hong Kong and can even do much better than them," Chan said.

"I also want to let people know that mainland immigrants are not 'locusts' and can do much more than just simply rely on government assistance."

Inspired by a 2011 documentary titled School on the Road, shot by award-winning Taiwanese documentary director Kuo Shiao-Yun, Youth New World has invested HK$500,000 in developing the endurance trip - which will be filmed by Kuo.

Exhibited at the 2013 Taipei Film Festival, School on the Road tells the story of a group of young adults who are suffering from drug addiction and family violence who trek through 13 cities and towns across Taiwan in 36 days.

"I [accepted their invitation] because not many organisations around the world are willing to or have [been successful] in running such an intense training programme targeted at teenagers who are going through a rebellious stage," Kuo said.

Gigi Chiu Mei-yu, 15, also advanced to the second round. Her parents have recently divorced and her mother is now receiving government aid.

"I am not totally confident that I can survive the six-day challenge because I barely made it through the pre-training phase. But after struggling with whether or not to give up, my courage got the better of me and I decided to accept the challenge," Chiu said.