Children with specific learning disabilities are set to benefit from this year's Operation Santa Claus, which will kick off next Saturday. The beneficiary of the annual event, jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and Radio Television Hong Kong, is the Pathways Foundation - a charity set up in March last year to provide support for children with specific learning disabilities (SLD). SLDs are neurological disorders affecting one in 10 people worldwide. Children with this affliction generally have low self-esteem and are frustrated because of the associated learning problems - difficulties with reading and writing and impaired memory. But the problems are not related to intelligence, hearing, visual or behavioural shortcomings. Pathways executive director Gloria Hill said there were more than 90,000 children in Hong Kong who suffered from these problems. 'Often people misunderstand and think children with SLDs are lazy or not paying attention in class. Children suffer a great deal from this,' Ms Hill said. It was a life-long condition. 'We hope to provide children with strategies applicable in every aspect of their lives,' she said. Services provided by Pathways include after-school support to strengthen children's study skills and workshops to train teachers. But funding is needed to develop its learning centre and equip it with a resource library. Although awareness of SLDs is growing in Hong Kong, Pathways hopes to conduct more research into the SLD problems affecting Chinese children. The director of Operation Santa Claus, Nathalie Rahman, said most SLDs tended to be overlooked. 'With education being so crucial to every child's development, it is important we don't let those with invisible disabilities fall through the cracks,' she said. 'Everyone is in a position to help. Even small companies with few employees and fewer resources can contribute to add to the total raised for Operation Santa Claus this year.' If you want to make a difference, please contact the Operation Santa Claus office on 2251 1550 or send a cheque payable to Operation Santa Claus 2002, Bank of China Tower, Level 25, One Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong.