Healing a young Hong Kong mother’s pain

OneSky Family Mentors are Strengthening the Bonds Between Parents and Children.

When Jenny, a young mum of two, first met OneSky Family Mentor Yannis at the P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development (OSGC) in Hong Kong a year ago, she was frustrated and angry.

“I hate her,” Jenny said, speaking of her 5-year-old daughter, Yuet. Yannis could sense that behind Jenny’s harsh words there was a complicated story – one she was determined to get to the bottom of.

Jenny had visited the OSGC with Yuet and younger sibling Hei, aged 3. Jenny’s disheveled appearance and anxious expression caused Yannis to realize that this was a family hurting and in need of compassion and support.

“After several conversations, I understood that her issues stemmed from a troubled marriage and her daughters’ condition,” Yannis recalled, explaining that Hei suffered from autism.

Jenny had blamed herself when Hei was diagnosed and was determined to spend her life taking care of her daughter’s special needs. However, as time went by, Jenny became exhausted by the reality of parenting a child on the spectrum. Feeling lost and alone, she became depressed, neglected Yuet and was barely able to care for herself.

Both mother and daughter grew apart. Jenny became angry and the only time she spoke to Yuet was to bark orders about what needed to be done to help care for her younger sister. Even at her tender young age, Yuet came to realize that life was all about her little sister and that her mother could not give her the attention she so desperately craved. So, as children do, she began behaving badly, fighting with Hei and losing her temper.

The destructive pattern became a viscous cycle: the more Yuet rebelled, the more pressure her unstable mother felt. Jenny eventually reacted, screaming her feelings of hatred and guilt toward Yuet.

Fortunately, Jenny had come to the OSGC before things spiraled more out of control.

After listening to Jenny, Yannis focused on rebuilding the broken relationships between Jenny and herself, her daughters, and the community. Yannis became a bridge between the mother and both daughters, helping to ease their anxiety and emotions.

OneSky’s Family Mentors walked alongside the mother, while helping Yuet and Hei to build a healthier sibling relationship. Jenny was encouraged to appreciate and recognize Yuet’s effort by making her a handicraft. When she saw Yuet smiling from ear to ear, she suddenly saw her daughter as an individual with her own needs.

Family Mentor Yannis was so touched by Jenny’s progress that she decided to offer Jenny a personal gift – a pair of earrings with a hoop surrounded by tiny flowers, depicting the mother as the core of a family in her daughters’ mind.

“Please cherish yourself and recognize your efforts,’’ Yannis told Jenny. “Only by doing so, can you treat yourself and your daughters nicely.”

Jenny was overwhelmed. “This gift is too much for me. I am not brave enough to wear this and I don’t deserve it. But I am willing to learn to face myself and be kind to myself, so I shall try to put them on,” replied Jenny.

With OneSky’ support in understanding the role she plays as a caregiver to her young and vulnerable children; Jenny has come to better know herself and is on the road to rebuilding her relationship with her daughters. Meanwhile, Yuet has stopped picking fights with her little sister and the two have learned to play together.

Recently, Jenny visited the OneSky Global Centre in Sham Shui Po with the girls. She looked different this time. Tidy and wearing a beautiful outfit, a pair of earrings were dangling from her ears.

“Do you love them now?” asked Yannis warmly, noticing how happy the young girls and their mom appeared. Holding them tight, Jenny turned to look at her daughters and smiled genuinely without saying a word. The answer was clear.

In Hong Kong, OneSky supports children and families living on the margins by providing caregiver skills training and a safe, educational play space. Working with NGOs in the community, OneSky supports families with counseling and ancillary services.

Engaging with Community Partners to better serve our community

The P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development continues to feel the effect of the pandemic’s fifth wave, which has battered Hong Kong’s economy and society.

The Centre has been doing its best to serve low-income families living in Sham Shui Po, despite the closure of face-to-face services due to Covid-19. Family Mentors have continued to provide innovative support to vulnerable families virtually. And now, they are also collaborating with like-minded organizations and institutions to provide continued parenting education support and promote responsive practices.

Online parenting skills sharing on language and emotional development

OneSky’s training team organized online parenting skills workshops entitled “Combating Intergeneration Addiction 2.0,” sponsored by Beat Drug Fund. Early Childhood Trainers introduced responsive ways to foster children’s growth on language and emotional ability through games and storytelling.

Online workshop for early childhood professionals

OneSky and Jockey Club CoolPlay Project of Yew Chung College of Early Childhood Education (YCCECE) joined hands to invite kindergarten principals, in-service and pre-service teachers and early childhood educators, to exchange ideas on early childhood education, enlightenment and development during an online workshop.

Over 130 participants from more than 75 organisations attended the event. Dr Wen Zhao, Senior Program Advisor of OneSky, explained the relationship-based education philosophy of responsive practice, while Susanna Lee, Executive Director of OneSky’s Global Centre, introduced the application of responsive practice through the Centre’s activities, environment and program design. After a discussion on STEM’s integration into daily lives by the Jockey Club CoolPlay Project team, participants discussedthe feasibility of applying the pedegogy in early childhood professional development. OneSky and YCCECE will collaborate again to provide YCCECE students with a sharing session, and to offer OneSky families a STEM workshop, followed by joining a parent-child carnival in May.

Exchange on professional practice with postgraduate students

An exchange on responsive practice and its application was held for postgraduate students from the Education University of Hong Kong. It illustrated how OneSky helps vulnerable children reach their potentials at welfare institutions in mainland China and at the Centre in Hong Kong. By collaborating with institutions and organizations, OneSky hopes to promote a professional, supportive network, as well as increase best practices in early childhood education.

OneSky supports vulnerable families through the ongoing Covid pandemic in Hong Kong

The recent fifth wave of the Covid pandemic has severely affected the most vulnerable members of the Hong Kong community. And, In areas like Sham Shui Po, where the P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development is located, OneSky’s Family Mentors are helping to serve low-income families as best they can.

Families like that of 5-year-old Tung Tung, who all tested positive for Covid.

Unexpectantly forced into isolation in their cramped Sham Shui Po apartment, the little girl, her elder brother and mother did not have sufficient food, test kits, or medical supplies to get through their quarantine.

“We had no rapid antigen test kits so I dared not go out,” Tung Tung’s mother recalled. “We were running out of food at home and I felt so helpless. I didn’t know what to do.”

In desperation, she reached out to OneSky’s Family Mentors for help.

When OneSky’s Family Mentors heard of the family’s difficulties, they gathered together items for Tung Tung, her brother and mother, including Covid test kits, food and cleaning supplies and delivered them to their home.

The Family Mentors kept in close contact with Tung Tung and her family, to help them cope throughout the quarantine period. They provided the two children with fun, online learning activities.

“I was really touched. In such a severe environment, OneSky Family Mentors never gave up on us,” Tung Tung’s mother said.

With the generous support of community partners and donors, OneSky has been able to distribute emergency supplies to Sham Shui Po families in need to help them through this very difficult time.

Like many, Tung Tung’s family was isolated due the current Covid outbreak. Crowded living conditions and lack of childcare support has brought great distress to affected families, particularly in regards to the children’s learning and personal development.

OneSky’s Senior Family Mentor Yannis Chan noted: “The pandemic has posed great challenges to children’s growth. We have tried to help as best we can by providing emotional support in addition to the material supplies.”

“We have offered parents support in storytelling, how to play-at-home, parenting tips, and other information to support their caregiving needs. Looking at it from a different angle, we have tried to help parents and caregivers to use quarantine as a positive time for the family.”

Throughout the pandemic, OneSky Family Mentors have continuously adapted and remained connected with the families, like that of Tung Tung — providing emotional and daily support —virtually and in-person as circumstances allow.

Barclays Bank: Supporting Vulnerable Communities in Hong Kong

Thanks to our partnership with Barclays Bank (Barclays), the P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development in Hong Kong has amplified its support of vulnerable families living in Sham Shui Po.

Across the Asia Pacific, Barclays is working with selected charity partners, like OneSky, who are providing pandemic relief to the communities where Barclays has a presence — to help vulnerable communities impacted by the Covid-19 crisis and those working on the frontline of response.

Most recently, through the Barclays LifeSkills Programme, the Centre trained over 100 local women in an evidence-based methodology to care for young children, and is now helping them to secure employment.

And, to help vulnerable children manage through the Covid crisis, important pandemic-related information was relayed through interactive storytelling and activities. In addition, with further support from Barclays through its global programme, the £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package, COVID-care packs (including sanitizing spray and masks) were distributed to families through the Centre’s network, benefiting more than 800 vulnerable families.

“Barclays has a long-standing commitment to supporting the communities in which we operate and an important duty to help the most vulnerable through the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why we partner with organizations like OneSky who play a critical role in our society, providing vulnerable communities with life skills and employability opportunities as well as ensuring that tangible support is getting to those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Anthony Davies, Chief Executive, Barclays Bank Hong Kong Branch & Senior Relationship Management, Asia Pacific.

During the season of giving last year, Barclays employees also came together to spread festive joy by delivering 280 gift packs to children visiting the Centre, sharing the Christmas spirit with low-income families in Sham Shui Po.

 

Hong Kong Centre celebrates Lunar New Year with a virtual party

Despite the pandemic-caused closure of the P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development in Hong Kong, Lunar New Year was still cause for celebration!

Thanks to technology and the creativity of the Centre’s Family Mentors, around 50 families recently attended a festive and fun virtual Lunar New Year party. The event helped give young children served by the Centre a better understanding of the festival through a variety of interactive games and activities.

Dressed up in traditional clothes, Family Mentors and OneSky children sang Chinese New Year songs and enjoyed listening to stories about the holiday. There was also instruction in dragon dancing, allowing children to feel the rhythm and develop their fine motor skills. Interactive games (like hunting for festive items, art crafts show-and-tell) added a joyful new year vibe to the party.

Both caregivers and Family Mentors witnessed the growth of the young children while listening to them speak confidently about their tangerine drawings and spring couplets. The party came to a perfect end with the Centre staff members sending blessings to the families and a group photo taken featuring all little and big “tigers.”

Happy Year of the Tiger!

Children proudly showed their beautiful drawings of tangerines.

Family Mentors encouraged caregivers and children to enjoy their family time at home, making good use of home materials and creating easy-to-play art crafts.

 

“Although the pandemic halted in-person service, the team has kept families engaged to help children’s development by adopting creative ideas and technology. Through communication tools such as WhatsApp and Facebook, we follow cases, provide parenting skills information and DIY games, etc. Moreover, we pledged our full support to the families in need by organizing different kinds of online activities and events,” said Mavis Yip, the Centre’s Program Coordinator.

Currently, the Centre offers a professionally led online parenting skills training program for caregivers with children, aged 0-6, to continue their learning in responsive care, despite the ongoing pandemic.

Inaugural Christmas Party Fills Global Centre with Warmth and Love

Towards the end of last year, an inaugural Christmas party was held in the P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development in Hong Kong.

The event attracted 100 members who shared a wonderful afternoon with Centre staff celebrating the festive season. Thanks to the generous support and sponsorship of Generali’s The Human Safety Net (THSN), volunteers created fun and interesting Christmas-themed games using recycled materials.

Caregivers and children explored and traveled around different booths, hosted by Generali’s THSN volunteers. The families had great fun joining in various activities including the wreath and wooden craft DIY workshop, putting up a Christmas tree, hunting for jingle bells, and playing bowling games. What surprised the children most was that Santa Claus “came to town” and took pictures with them! They were further delighted when Santa distributed presents to each one of them.

A good time was had by all during the inaugural Christmas party – which organizers hope to make an annual event going forward.

A big thank you to volunteers from Generali’s THSN! The children and their families had great fun and felt a sense of community at the party.

Children designed a beautiful wreath and helped to put up a Christmas tree.

Strike! The children demonstrated their talent for playing bowling games.

Jingle bell, jingle bell… where are they?


Children colored beautiful wooden crafts showcasing their creativity.

Children and adults alike were excited when Santa paid a surprise visit to the Centre!

OneSky Community Day Join Hands with Community Partners to Support Families in Need

In Hong Kong, OneSky has been working with community partners to offer assistance and support to families in need. In December 2021, OneSky joined hands with the Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres and Caritas Hong Kong’s “Project Hyacinth-Enrichment Service for Young Mothers,” inviting caregivers and children aged between 0 and 6 to visit the P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development (OSGC).

Through experiencing the educational playground and parenting skills interactive workshop, the families in attendance gained a better understanding of the services offered by the Centre promoting early childhood education and supporting vulnerable families.

Through exploring the inspirational playground of OSGC, the families, on one hand, experienced learning through play; on the other hand, they could have a better understanding of responsive care under the guidance of Family Mentors.

 

“We feel very grateful for having support from like-minded organizations, who are willing to join hands with us to introduce community support for families in most need. By collaborative effort and making good use of one’s strength, I believe that we could build a strengthened and supportive network for vulnerable caregivers and children in Hong Kong,” said Susanna Lee, Executive Director of OSGC.

On Community Day, caregivers and children were excited to tour around the interactive educational playground, creative sports zone, and family resources zone under the accompaniment of dedicated Family Mentors.

“Project Hyacinth – Enrichment Service for Young Mothers” aims to rebuild family and community support for young mothers. On the Community Day, young mothers  explored ways to improve children’s early childhood development through a responsive care approach, via the service and facilities of OSGC.

 

Followed by an interactive parenting skills workshop, caregivers learned about the importance of childhood brain development and how the attitude of caregivers influenced children’s responsive learning abilities. In the future, OneSky hopes to continue partnering with more like-minded organizations, providing additional support to the community.

Caregivers had an understanding of early childhood development after attending a parenting workshop and learned ways to stimulate children’s brain development.

Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres focus on the livelihood of grassroots women. Thanks to their visits we hope to meet them again in the caregivers training program.  

Inaugural Butterfly-Themed Graduation Ceremony Encourages Kids to “Fly” to their Potential

The inaugural OneSky Graduation Ceremony in Hong Kong was recently organized for families with children who turned 6 years old and are now ready to leave the P.C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development.

The butterfly-themed ceremony was filled with warmth and love through specially designed interactive games. Participants were asked to express their feelings and join hands with Family Mentors to decorate and design the Interactive Playground.

Family Mentors discussed a story of a butterfly and invited children to share their thoughts.

OneSky children, aged 0-6, receive love and care, developing alongside their family members through the responsive care approach. When they turn 6, they are “graduated” from OneSky, ready to spread their wings and fly like butterflies.

The event started with an engaging story about the evolution of a butterfly. Family Mentors then asked the children to hunt for hidden paper butterflies in the forest-themed interactive playground. The mentors explained that the butterflies are reflective of one’s uniqueness and identity, symbolizing that the children gradually evolve in the process of child development.

Caregivers and children were inspired by an interactive game about the evolution of a butterfly.

We then asked the caregivers and children to express their feelings towards their family members, Family Mentors, or the OneSky Global Centre by writing them on a paper butterfly. Families shared their heartfelt thanks to our Centre which provides a safe space for the kids to grow, explore and learn accompanied by trained caregivers. This is exactly what the Sham Shui Po area is lacking.

“Thank you, OneSky! We had an unforgettable family time at OneSky with family mentors who are all caring and energetic.” Participants expressed their feelings towards OneSky on paper butterflies.

The ceremony provided a perfect opportunity for the families to let their creativity flow. They decorated the playground with paper butterflies and gave a heart-warming vibe to the playground. Through training in the OneSky Approach, we offer help to caregivers to develop children’s holistic development. Growing up brightly like a butterfly with uniqueness, OneSky children are ready to walk their path, spread their wings, and fly after they “graduated” from OneSky’s program in Hong Kong.

The paper butterflies filled with heartfelt thanks from the families has become one of the most loving decoration at the Centre.


The P. C. Lee OneSky Global Centre for Early Childhood Development offers a safe and educational playground for vulnerable children, aged 0-6, and their caregivers. The goal of the Centre is to help children reach their potential through a responsive care approach. Click HERE to learn more.

Helping to raise confident kids in Sham Shui Po

By Crystal Cheng, Family Center Supervisor

I joined OneSky in June 2019 to empower and engage caregivers and to help children develop their full potential regardless of their ethnicity, ability or socio-economic status. This past year has only served to reinforce the importance of our work.

Recently, I interacted with a parent who joined our Family Centre when it opened a year ago. It has been a difficult year for her, as it has been for so many in the low-income community we serve. But, as a social worker, what has struck me is that she has been able to find positives in her difficult situation. In particular, she spoke of the encouraging change in her daughter’s behavior and how that has drawn them closer.

Her child has become braver, more confident, because of what she has learned from her OneSky family mentors. Within a supportive environment, this mum has been taught to observe her child, note her interests, and use them to enrich her play. This in turn has strengthened their bond, as well as the child’s sense of trust and self-confidence.

To learn new skills, put them into practice, and see a tangible response has left quite an impression on this mum, who said it felt like “a small personal miracle, played out against the backdrop of this awful pandemic.”

Here in Hong Kong, as we fought Covid-19, OneSky’s usual means of reaching out and changing lives were constantly impacted and we have had to adapt.

Primarily, the OneSky Centre is a place for the local community to gather, learn, and, of course, play. To date, we have registered 437 children and 495 caregivers as members of the Centre.

At times, the children have been able to enjoy socially distanced supervised play and parents enjoyed training workshops. At other times, however, with services suspended, continuing our work for the children and their caregivers has required creativity.

So, we started online storytelling sessions, parent-child activities and even a virtual Christmas party through the phone. Using WhatsApp, we have offered parenting tips, activity cards, and all manner of DIY fun for kids.

Despite all the constraints, we have never stopped reaching out and letting parents know they are not alone. Pandemic circumstances allowing, each family is able to access support and services in the Family Centre.

One of the lessons we have learned from the past year is not to second guess the future, and 2021 still remains somewhat unknown.

However, like that child with the proud mum, our confidence is growing. Despite tough circumstances, we learned that we, too, can rise to the occasion. I’m so proud of our staff and their bravery, innovation, and commitment to the community we serve.

Complementing the parenting skills training led by our Family Mentors, innovation will continue to characterize our approach to working with vulnerable communities as we build a supportive network for the families of Sham Shui Po.

It has already been quite a journey, thanks to the generous hearts of colleagues, donors, and local NGOs. Standing together, we are proud to be part of the solution to offer a better future for the vulnerable families of Hong Kong.