Operation Santa Claus

How a hearing-impaired Hong Kong youth made it to college and now aspires to be a legislator

Facing discrimination and ignorance from others, Meng Wen overcame the odds with the help of charity Silence

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 1:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 10:20am

Being hearing-impaired is not an obstacle for college student Meng Wen, who aspires to become a legislator.

Despite never having a proper education till Form 6 because of the lack of sign language interpretation, he did not give up.

With the help of Silence, a local charity dedicated to serving the hearing-impaired community, Meng overcame many adversities and became a student at the VTC Youth College in Kwai Fong.

Hearing-impaired trainees drink to graduating from special bartending course

Silence is looking to expand its programme serving local youngsters who are either hearing-impaired or raised in hearing-impaired families. The charity is also a beneficiary of Operation Santa Claus – an annual charity campaign jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Services offered by Silence include sign language interpretation and family counselling. Not only did the charity help Meng prepare for the DSE examination, it also arranged interpreters for his interviews with colleges, and helped Meng enrol in a bartending course.

Meng said his best quality is that he perseveres despite the obstacles. Throughout his childhood, he “felt very discriminated against” as peers treated him with disrespect.

“Some people act like being hearing-impaired is a disease. When I lent them a pen, they would wipe it as if there was a contagious virus,” he said.

He also said people sometimes harshly yelled at him because they wrongly assumed that he could hear them clearly if they spoke louder.

Meng said his goal after college was to pursue a career in law. This ambition was inspired by Legislative Council member and social work professor Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung.

Meng added he hoped to “fight for the rights of the hearing-impaired in the city”.

Some people act like being hearing-impaired is a disease. When I lent them a pen, they would wipe it as if there was a contagious virus
Meng Wen

Meng, whose parents are also hearing-impaired, faces hurdles both in school and at home. Although he did not reveal details about his struggles at home, he said he sometimes had to ask Silence to resolve conflicts on his behalf.

Willy Kwong, center head of Silence, said family counselling is critical for children who grow up in hearing-impaired families because they often face “huge development gaps” compared to other kids.

According to Kwong, a child with parents who are hearing-impaired often fails to pick up the meaning of common verbal cues because of the absence of verbal communication at home.

“When such parents don’t want their kids to do something, they would simply just hit [them] to make them stop instantly,” he said. “So when [these children] see something they don’t like, they may use violence to stop it.”

Kwong added that such behaviour can be misjudged and taken as a symptom of ADHD or other medical conditions.

Furthermore, Kwong said children with healthy hearing but raised in a hearing-impaired family could sometimes be psychologically affected and display behaviour akin to being hearing-impaired.

Silence also seeks to assist such children with the donation provided by Operation Santa Claus.

Silence was founded in 2008 by the family of Li Ching, a hearing-impaired youth who fought against society’s indifference to people with her disability. She tragically took her own life in March, 2008.

Ever since its launch, Silence has been seeking to improve the well-being of the hearing-impaired and their families in the city.