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Operation Santa Claus

Hong Kong special needs children feast their eyes on first ever turkey at charity Christmas party

Maxim’s Group, which donates to Operation Santa Claus, organises party for children from Benji’s Centre

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 December, 2016, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 December, 2016, 10:32pm

Children with special speech needs learned the word “turkey” over Christmas by seeing the festive dish for the first time when restaurant chain Maxim’s hosted a party for them.

A dozen young children aged three to five from Benji’s Centre were expecting only games, cakes and presents when they were asked by a Maxim’s volunteer what they expected at a Christmas party. It was when they saw chefs taking out a full roasted turkey that they rushed forward for a closer look.

Operation Santa Claus connecting the Hong Kong community with a good cause

Five-year-old Thomas Yeung was decorating his Christmas cup cake when he caught sight of the turkey. He immediately jumped off his chair to get near it.

“I have never been to a Christmas party before,” said Thomas, who was diagnosed with delayed speech development at the age of two.

Thomas has been attending speech therapy sessions at Benji’s Centre, a non-profit organisation which serves children from low-income families, for two years. The weekly classes are preparing him for a mainstream primary school when he reaches school age next year.

Thomas’ mother, Percy Chen Liu-yun, recalled the time three years ago when Thomas “could not speak more than five words in a single sentence”.

“He was only able to say ‘good’ and ‘eat’ when he first started speech classes at the centre,” Chen said.

Apart from providing free and discounted speech therapy services, the centre also seeks to take children outdoors for events, according to social worker Polly Chan Pui-yee.

“Many children may have learned the word or saw a picture of a turkey in Christmas story books, but they need real-life experience rather than only learning the word in class to improve their speech ability,” Chan said. “Now I think they have the word turkey in their word bank,” she said.

She said the travelling expenses needed to bring children outdoors would often put the centre’s parents off from doing so. Chan said this explained why parents signed up to bring their children to the free-of-charge party hosted by Maxim’s Group, which is a donor to Operation Santa Claus, the annual charity appeal organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Two Maxim’s staff who organised games for the children said they were impressed by the children’s willingness to participate in the activities.

“It’s not our first time to be in touch with children who have speech development problems, but these children from Benji’s Centre are really active and they pay attention to our instructions,” said Carmen Lung Ka-man, who is involved with supply chain operations for the group.

Lung and her colleague, Funky Chan Kwun-fun, a senior district manager in Maxim’s Arome bakery, have been involved in volunteering work for children on a monthly basis for the past four years.

“Whenever I do volunteering work, especially during festive seasons, I feel that seeing children’s smiles reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas,” Funky Chan said.