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What does winning this year’s Cheng Ming Award mean to you?
It is rewarding to see my previous four years of commitment to social work has finally been recognized. I do owe a debt of gratitude to my undergraduate thesis supervisor, Prof. Chen Ji-kang, who is also a member of New Asia College. Without his recommendation and encouragement, I wouldn’t even have the courage to submit my application for the award.
Your undergraduate thesis investigates the challenges faced by LGBT youths in Hong Kong. Why did you conduct a research on this specific issue?
Many of the major gender-related issues have not been openly and widely discussed by the students of social work, particularly in Hong Kong. Our society’s gender role expectations, its perception of ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ sexual orientations and behaviours, as well as the society’s stereotypical assumptions about the sexual minorities, can lead to various forms of inequality and discriminations, which have profound negative impacts on the self-esteem and mental health of LGBT youths.
Tell us some of the unforgettable moments from your research and fieldwork experiences.
I had the privilege to present my undergraduate thesis at the 8th International Conference on Social Work in Health and Mental Health in the National University of Singapore this year. As the only undergraduate speaker at the conference, I was a bit intimidated at the beginning. After the presentation, I was very surprised to receive some positive feedback from the conference participants. Their encouragement had definitely reaffirmed my commitment in social work research after graduation.
As for my fieldwork experiences, the most memorable moments came from my three-month placement at a shelter for abused women and children in Taipei. You may think that women living in the shelter are mostly weak and vulnerable. But for me, they are extremely brave. Many of them are trying their best to raise their children and live an independent life as single-mothers. I would also like to see our society offering more education and counselling services to the abusers—just imagine how many tragedies would have been prevented if they had come to realize the importance of respecting their family members.
Have you ever felt disappointed at any moment of your research or fieldwork? How do you overcome that feeling?
One of my favourite motion-pictures, Inside Out, talks about the importance of embracing one’s sadness in order to lead a fulfilling life and I couldn’t agree more. It is not the job of a social worker to make everyone happy or fix other people’s lives. Our mission is to accompany the people in need as they come to accept who they are and discover their potentials. It is our hope that one day they can utilize their own resources and inner strength to enhance their personal well-being and live a meaningful life.
You are actively engaged in the debates of various social issues. How did you find a balance in life while taking up so many responsibilities?
It was not easy. But I believe that as university students, we do have the responsibility to make a positive change to the society. In September 2014, when Hong Kong was under intense political debate, I started to ponder a lot about social equality and justice. There was a moment that I felt extremely overwhelmed because I wanted to handle everything at the same time. In the end, one of my supervisors advised me to take a few days’ break from my fieldwork. Then I realized it is always a good idea, or even necessary, to pause and re-orient our direction in life.
What is your plan after graduation?
I am currently a research assistant for Prof. Chen Ji-kang and Prof. Chang Ching-wen at the Department of Social Work. I am also helping Ms. Fiona Chang, a registered expressive arts therapist and also a teacher of mine whom I respect a lot, in offering arts therapy services for cancer patients. It would be perfect if I could work for organizations which focus on the empowerment of the marginalized population. As for a long term plan—I will try my best to live by the motto of New Asia College, ‘Cheng Ming’—to remain sincere to everyone I encounter and continue to cultivate intelligence and wisdom in everything I do.
This article was originally published in No. 485, Newsletter in Oct 2016.