Some of Hong Kong's most disadvantaged children are to get new support in language learning, thanks to the fund-raising efforts of the Foreign Correspondents Club.
The FCC, which has its annual charity ball tonight, has raised more than $500,000 for a language training programme for about 300 children in Po Leung Kuk residential care homes, with the aim of helping them become biliterate and trilingual.
The programme involves two one-hour story-telling sessions a week for all children and three hours of face-to-face teaching with native English-speaking and Putonghua teachers for the kindergarten and junior primary levels.
The group teaching could later be extended to older children.
'A storyteller, with a stock of books and comics, with cassette tapes and CD Roms, and a laptop computer with language learning software, will visit each dormitory or small group home two nights a week,' said Matt Driskall, president of the club.
The programme, devised by language and teaching consultants and delivered by professional teachers, starts next month.
Bridget Yu Chan Wai-ping, assistant principal social services secretary for the Po Leung Kuk, said many of the children came from dysfunctional families.
'Cultivating an English and Putonghua environment is a prerequisite for improving their futures,' she said.
Alan Olsen, a member of the club's grants and scholarships committee, said: 'We are serious about breaking kids out of their social classes.'
The club, he said, wanted to use its funds to help narrow the gap in language skills between children from disadvantaged and well-off families.
The FCC is contributing $550,000 to the programme, raised from its last charity ball.
This has been matched by $500,000 from the Po Leung Kuk. Banking giant JP Morgan has donated $390,000 while Golden Accord (Asia) Ltd has given laptops and software worth more than $312,000.
The FCC is also funding six scholarships, worth a total of $450,000, for higher education for former Po Leung Kuk residents, while $1 million has been awarded to six students going on to universities from its schools.