For Po Leung Kuk’s disadvantaged kids, Hong Kong Rugby Union’s programmes mean new friends and being part of a team
The game is giving a group of girls from the residential care home a purpose in life and a chance to see the world
To many, rugby is a release and a way to feel part of the culture that is so unique to sports clubs, but for a group of girls at Po Leung Kuk’s residential care home, it is so much more.
It gives them purpose in their disjointed lives, with 14-year-old Lisa Wong Wai-Lam hailing her rugby family as “another home”.
Wong, along with Candy Lo Wai-sze (14), Cathy Wong Sze-man (16), Kinki Lam Tsz-ki (13) and Polly Liu Chun-chun (12), attended the Tony Ho Rugby Camp in England last month as part of PLK’s partnership with the Hong Kong Rugby Union.
All five girls are long-term PLK residents due to family crises and went to the camp – which offers specialised rugby training – with the help of the union and the Kowloon Rugby Club.
“Without rugby training, I never would have been able meet so many new friends. It is like another home to us,” says Lisa Wong, who has been playing since the age of 10. “It’s exciting, fun and interesting. I’ve learnt about teamwork.”
For Cathy Wong, who has represented Hong Kong at underage level, playing rugby gives her a chance to work towards a common goal.
“It’s a sport where me and my teammates work together and we enjoy it together, we train together and we work hard together,” says Wong.
The partnership began five years ago when the union started running summer rugby programmes for PLK kids, with the Hong Kong Football Club then stepping in.
“We told the Football Club what we were doing and they very kindly said ‘if any of the kids, after their summer programme, want to play they can come and join us and they don’t have to pay their subs’,” says union chief executive Robbie McRobbie.
As it stands, about 40 PLK kids play for HKFC, a number that has grown steadily. August’s tour was by no means the first time rugby has taken PLK residents overseas, with kids attending the now-defunct Touraid Festival of Rugby in England in years past as well as touring Asia with their HKFC teams.
“Some of our students are not going to be academic high-flyers, if they have rugby that’s something they can excel at,” says Michelle McEwan, the academic manager of PLK’s language training programme.
“One of the girls, when she is on the rugby pitch it is the only time I see her smile and she beams from ear to ear.
“Sometimes we’ve identified children who are really struggling and that comes out emotionally and behaviourally, and we have been able to put them into sport and it gives them a space where they can grow and where they can work through their emotions and become happier and healthier people at the end of it,” says McEwan.
Rugby pulling its weight as Hong Kong slowly but surely wakes up to the role of sport in a balanced education
The union plans to send PLK kids to the Tony Ho camp on an annual basis and it supports the charity through its annual ball, which it took over the running of from the Foreign Correspondent’s Club last year and will be held on November 11.
“To support the Po Leung Kuk in a wider way, and primarily that other support goes into their English language training centres and also scholarships to help them go onto tertiary education, all of that requires funds and the ball is our contribution to help provide the funding for those specific areas,” McRobbie says.