Healthy hangout

It'S 10PM in Yat Tung Estate, Tung Chung, and a dark corner is illuminated by a bright light from the back of a lorry.

Inside the vehicle, there's a big screen showing a 3D tennis match. Clutching a wireless console, two young boys slug it out in front of the screen.

At the back, three teenage girls are fiddling with trinkets from a small jewellery box.

With young skateboarders honing their skills in the vicinity and Canto-pop songs blasting from the loudspeakers, the usually quiet street corner turns into a cool entertainment centre at night.

Launched by Youth Outreach last November, Street Rover visits public housing estates in the New Territories every week. Covered in graffiti, the mobile entertainment centre boasts a variety of teen attractions, including video games, skateboards and laptops.

The Street Rover is an exciting new hangout for children who may otherwise be involved in illegal activities.

'With my elder brother hogging the PlayStation3 every day, I don't have a lot to do at night. So I always go out to play with my friends. Now I enjoy the activities inside the lorry very much. The tennis video game is my favourite,' said Fung Kit-wai, an 11-year-old boy from Yat Tung Estate.

Listening to songs on a laptop, Max Sibtain, 13, also enjoys the nightly entertainment provided by the Street Rover.

'I always go out to play football with my friends at night. My parents are okay with it. I would be really happy if the lorry could come to our estate more often,' said the Pakistani teenager.

The brainchild of Youth Outreach's social workers, the mobile centre is aimed at preventing troubled children from wandering the streets at night.

'Our Sai Wan Ho headquarters has a 24-hour entertainment centre. But the remote location prevents us from reaching out to kids in the New Territories,' said Youth Outreach team leader, Anky Lee Yiu-ki.

'So, we came up with the idea of a mobile youth centre, bought a lorry and turned it into Street Rover last year.'

The eight-member team hopes to provide counselling to at-risk youth and lure them away from shady characters.

'Many young people hang out with their friends at night. They may meet the wrong people and follow their unlawful activities,' said Youth Outreach social worker, Mark Tam Chung-hoi.

'With rave parties and discos no longer popular with local youths, many of them head

to the mainland to seek excitement. We hope to make friends with impressionable young people before they go astray.'

Having been with Youth Outreach for four years, Mr Tam has a knack for dealing with wayward children.

'Entertainment, such as video games, skateboarding and breakdancing, can help to break the ice. If they see us as their friends, young people are willing to talk to us about everything,' said Mr Tam.

'Most of the kids we have come across are not inherently bad. They're just bored and don't want to stay at home at night.'

Youth Outreach, which provides counselling and career advice for young people, has a 24-hour youth entertainment centre at its headquarters at 2 Holy Cross Path, Sai Wan Ho.

For Street Rover's schedule, call 2384 3531 or the 24-hour hotline: 9088 1023.