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Operation Santa Claus

‘Care Angels’ give hugs and love to infants and children with absent parents

Charity workers in Po Leung Kuk’s Care Angels Project spend time building bonds with children who have been separated from their families, to ensure they grow up emotionally healthy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 3:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 10:42pm

Babies and young children are best cared for by their parents. Yet if the little ones’ natural guardians cannot perform their duties, “Care Angels” from one of Hong Kong’s oldest charity groups will bend over backwards to help.

Debbie Wong Wai-kwan, who runs the Care Angels Project at the Babies Section of Po Leung Kuk, which was established some 140 years ago, said her team was looking after infants and young children who were abandoned by their parents, or separated from their families for different reasons.

Apart from providing for their basic needs such as food, shelter and warmth, the charity workers also aim to foster healthy emotional development in these children, since they lack the parental care that would naturally make them feel loved.

Wong, who initiated an attachment building programme in 2006 for young children, said infants needed individualised care and one-on-one interaction.

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“They express wishes to be hugged and to get instant responses. They need a lot of touching, and a lot of love,” she said of the newborn babies and toddlers under the charity’s care.

The Po Leung Kuk team plans to expand the attachment building programme, which is part of the Care Angels Project, for more infants and children aged up to six years. It currently serves about 100 children.

The project receives funding from investment bank Morgan Stanley, through Operation Santa Claus, an annual donation drive jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

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The Care Angels team will be expanded so there are more charity workers to interact with children. This, said Wong, would allow the children to spend more quality time with their designated carers, who can give them undivided attention in “cosy time” sessions.

“In doing so, we hope to help the children grow up happily,” Wong said.

Kong Lai-chun, assistant principal social services secretary of Po Leung Kuk, said the young children now staying at the charity’s Causeway Bay home were mainly referred by the Integrated Family Service Centres, operated by the Social Welfare Department and non-governmental organisations, as they needed the charity’s 24-hour residential child care services.

According to Kong, most these children were ethnically Chinese and came from different backgrounds.

They were either orphans or from families with a history of child abuse or other problems, she said.

“They came to Po Leung Kuk because their families do not function,” Kong said.

Law Ka-sin, a charity worker with the project for 10 years, recalled how impressed she was with a three-year-old boy’s change in behaviour after she spent months building bonds with him through one-on-one interactions.

“He avoided me at first. Then he began sharing his toys with me … Finally he grew so attached to me,” Law said.