Two years ago, Wong Ka-wa looked into her sobbing mother’s eyes and promised to change her ways. No longer would the teenage runaway spend her time fighting, stealing and abusing drugs; she would become a focused young lady and make her mother proud.
Today, anyone who doubted Wong’s commitment to that promise – made as her mother, receiving hospital treatment for depression, begged her to return home – has been proved wrong.
For Wong has recently been named one of ten Most Improved Trainees under the Labour Department’s youth employment and training programme.
The model young worker, now 17, has come far from that dark day in hospital, but the memory of it is still clear.
“I had ran away from home and my mother was so worried about me that she needed to be sent to the hospital because of her emotional problems,” recalled Wong.
“She was crying and begging me to go home. I asked myself, why is my mother begging me on her knees?”
Looking back on her troubled young life, Wong realised there was plenty she needed to change. She had been kicked out of school after completing her Secondary 2 year and, feeling lost, turned to drugs.
But rather than provide comfort the drugs – which included Ketamine, a drug used in anaesthesia – only made her worse. She became delusional and prone to paranoia, believing she was surrounded by people who hated her.
She fought with her divorced parents constantly, and spent countless nights at gaming arcades with friends rather than in her bed at home.
“I got fired from four part-time jobs. Back in those days I was always asking my friends to lend me money, and I had stolen money from my family,” she admitted.
Caught in a downward spiral, but determined to keep her promise to her mother, Wong sought help from social workers. They guided her to the Labour Department’s programme, which provides vocational training to school leavers aged 15 to 24, and Wong never looked back.
She took part in pet grooming courses and soon landed an on-the-job training opportunity at pet store Q-Pets. She fell in love with the work and is now a junior pet groomer at another store, Red Carrot.
“It is very satisfying when I am grooming the pets. I want to be able to teach other people about pet grooming in the future,” she said.
Tears fell slowly down her cheeks when asked what she had to say to her parents. “Mum, I want to thank you for always taking good care of me. I know you love me the most among your four children,” she said.
“No matter what happens in the future, I will always be your good girl. I will show you that your girl can succeed.”
Wong’s is far from the only success story under the department’s programme. Almost 48,000 youngsters have taken part since 2009.
One of them, Chung Kin-shing, 24, has been named alongside Wong as one of the most improved. He too transformed his life after hitting a nadir.
He felt desperate after scoring just five points in the Certificate of Education Examination. The highest score is 30.
“I did not do well academically, because I was always playing computer games after school. I would play up to eight hours a day after school back then…I didn’t know how to get along with people in real life,” he recalled.
But after taking part in the department’s programme in 2010 he became a sales assistant in Ocean Park. “When I first took up the job I was always scared and I didn’t know how to answer the visitors’ questions,” he said