As one of the earliest advocates of ‘Early Childhood Intervention’, we are committed to promoting comprehensive care for children during their critical period of early development in order to lay a solid foundation for holistic development.Chairman of Executive Committee
Dr NG Yin-ming
It marks a special year for the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong as we celebrate our 85th anniversary amidst the global pandemic, where lives at all societal levels have been challenged, and the general public has experienced stress or even fatigue from fighting the pandemic. Our service provisions have also become more difficult under such new normal. I would therefore like to express my gratitude to all our staff who remained unswerving to their positions, upholding the necessary anti-epidemic measures to ensure health and safety of the community, meanwhile connecting with the community in the best possible ways to show our care for the children, youth and their families.
Staying Steadfast and Strong in the Face of the Pandemic
The world has been exposed to the epidemic for over a year, and low-income families have been hit harder than other sectors in society. According to the 2019 statistics released by HKSAR Census and Statistics Department, the poverty rate among Hong Kong children climbed to 17.8%, and this number is believed to be higher as families experience underemployment and unemployment resulting from the economic downfall. Low-income families lacked access to fundamental resources, and the need for assistance was deepened in times of the epidemic. In the past year, the Association stayed steadfast in response to adversities, mobilising resources from various sectors in society to facilitate our services, in order to go hand and hand with the city to get through these difficult times..
Physical and Mental Health Affected by the Epidemic
Not only does the prolonged epidemic threaten life, it also affects our general health. In the past year or so, schools, workplaces, sports and recreational facilities as well as social services units were forced to shut down multiple times. Children were deprived of their active outdoor time in the sun due to the advised “stay home” measures. Instead, their screen time, snack and sugar intakes increased significantly, exposing them to higher risks of overweight, near-sightedness, declined physical fitness or even depression. Such risks would be further heightened if parents from low-income families lacked the time (due to long working hours) and health knowledge to take care of their children. It is suggested that children should spend 2 hours of active outdoor time every day to absorb sufficient calcium and strengthen their muscles and immunity. More exposure to greeneries during their outdoor time also allow them to look farther away – a great way to prevent near-sightedness or keep it in check.
In terms of psychosocial development, schools halting face-to-face classes for a long time directly reduced children’s interaction with their teachers and peers, hence hindering their cognitive and social development. Many families were forced to stay home, creating an “enclosed” environment that might increase the chances of disputes and child abuse. Such risks would be even more likely for low-income families, who usually live in smaller spaces, with children with special educational needs such as ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder, bringing harm to parent-child relations.
Expanding Pandemic-specific Support for Children and Families
In the past year, the Association mobilised donations and participation from volunteers, corporates and members from the general public to provide low-income families with anti-epidemic supplies, voluntary learning assistance, home game kits and a series of online content. These initiatives aimed to connect and interact with our members and service targets, showing love and care to disadvantaged children and families in times of social distancing.
The Association also provided assistance to low-income families with two initiatives, Treasure Trove and Community Digital Competence Hub (CDCH). We also gathered generous support from various companies, including The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, HKBN Group, HKBN Talent CSI Fund, Kerry Properties Limited, Peterson Group Charity Foundation and Wu Jieh Yee Charitable Foundation, Henderson Development Anti-Epidemic Fund, as well as support from participating organisations from i100. We also saw students initiating crowd-funding campaigns among family and friends to donate data cards, electronic appliances and technical support to help disadvantaged students continue their studies online during the pandemic. The Association will continue to work closely with the education sector and governmental bodies to tackle the problem of digital divide more effectively, reducing its impact on the learning progress of disadvantaged students.
Post-pandemic Reconstruction: Promoting Sports and Health for All
The Association initiated a range of projects, such as Sports and Health Promotion Project, to promote sports and health for all children and youth. As the epidemic is expected to subside in the coming year, the Association will continue to expand the coverage of its services and execute research plans, in the hope to help more children, young people and families establish the good habits of exercise for a strong physique during the post-pandemic recovery.
Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman once said that disadvantaged children should be provided with quality early childhood development to more effectively develop their skills and intelligence. The Association is therefore well-ready to strengthen its efforts in promoting child-centred early intervention, nurturing digital capacities of disadvantaged children, providing sports and health and trauma-informed services in post-pandemic times. We are devoted and determined to make up for the developmental delay among children, young people and families caused by the epidemic. We will continue to work with the government, the business sector and cross-disciplinary professions to invest more resources in co-creating an environment conducive to the development of children, allowing them to grow up healthily and happily.