Text by: Alison Chong
29 November 2021
“When I was a little girl, I got sick very often. Thanks to the doctors’ and nurses’ dedication and care all these years, I’m now in excellent health and can help others in return,” says Ko Wai Shan, a recent secondary school graduate whose dream is to become a healthcare worker.

Used to be frail and sick from an underprivileged family, Wai Shan spent much of her childhood in and out of hospital and such experience inspired her to dream. Two years ago, she took part in the Child Development Matching Fund (CDMF) programme to build savings and develop life plan. And through the Youth Work Explorer (Y-WE) programme of CDMF’s partnering organization - Child Development Initiative Alliance (CDIA), she further secured an internship at a medical centre to broaden her horizons and build confidence. One big step closer to her dream.
Saving is a great habit that one should start young. But to the disadvantaged youth like Wai Shan, it’s almost a mission impossible. With the mother being housewife and the father being driver and the sole breadwinner, the family of four often struggles with finances and in order to make a monthly saving of HK$200 as the CDMF programme required, Wai Shan walked to school every day for two years. A daily round trip between Kwai Shing East Estate and her school in Kwai Chung is far from fun, but this doesn’t seem to give the optimistic girl any reason to grumble. She even shares an unexpected upside. “The one-hour walking round trip not only saved on daily transport costs, it was also a good way to exercise,” she chuckles. “I got healthier.”

By the end of the two-year programme, Wai Shan received – on top of her monthly savings – an equal matching fund from CDMF donated by Chinachem Group and an incentive bonus from the government. Out of a total sum of HK$14,400, she spent HK$2,000 on a new mobile and the rest on cram school tutorials and courses on acupuncture, Japanese and first aid. She also made the most out of her free time by equipping herself with first aid skills and medical knowledge, proactively paving the way to her dream career.

Waiz Shan’s story may sound like an urban tale. In Hong Kong, despite its prosperous image as one of the richest cities in the world, nearly every one in five children live in poverty and these kids face many challenges due to economic disparities. Our society – from government, businesses to civil society – has been trying hard to find ways to help disadvantaged children create better futures and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Among them is Chinachem Group, which donated HK$960,000 to CDMF last year. So far, 200 teenagers living in Tsuen Wan and Kwai Tsing have realised their dreams through the programme.
(Right) CDMF Chairman Amy Chan explains how the programme gets the young participants into a saving habit, broaden their horizons, and improve their soft skills and employability

As CDMF Chairman Amy Chan notes, the programme helps the young participants inculcate a saving habit, while offering work placement opportunities based upon interests and potential. For example, Wai Shan had her internship at UMP Medical Centre, and through which she broadened her horizons as well as improved employability, soft and social skills, thereby increasing her chance to move up the social ladder.

“Talent is our city’s greatest asset. We provide children growing up in low-income families opportunities and experiences, so that they can build from an early age aspirations for their futures which they can walk towards with confidence and motivation,” explains Chan. “To reduce inequality in our society, nurturing the youth is a priority. The donation from Chinachem Group has made this collaborative effort assembling the government, businesses and civil society possible. It will surely create a great impact. Together we nurture our young talent to drive a sustainable economic development in Hong Kong.”