Going for Gold
by Major Marion Weymouth
The five current and former students of Shek Wu Special School who won medals at the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games
|Major Jim Weymouth (Educational Services Secretary for The Salvation Army’s Hong Kong and Macau Command), Major Marion Weymouth, Special Olympics athlete Tso Chi Yung, School Principal Ms Addy Leung and physical education teacher Ms Lung Wai Ling|
|The Salvation Army’s Shek Wu Special School|
|School community members with Ms Lung Wai Ling (centre of front row) when she received her teaching excellence award. Tso Chi Yung is stood behind Ms Lung|
THE physical education teacher at The Salvation Army’s Shek Wu Special School, Hong Kong, has some students who are special in every way. At last year’s Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, China, five of Ms Lung Wai-Ling’s current and former students came away with a total of 11 gold medals in various sports.
Her hard work received recognition beyond the school when she was given Hong Kong’s highest award for teaching excellence. She, among other committed staff, has set an example in providing quality care in Jesus’ name.
When I spoke to Ms Lung, who is understandably very proud of her athletes, she introduced me to Tso Chi Yung.
She told me: ‘As someone who finished a 100-metre race in 13 seconds and 200 metres in 27 seconds, Chi Yung should be expected to have the physique of a short-race athlete,’ but he certainly does not. Instead this remarkable young man, intellectually impaired, has a large growth on his back which not only adversely affected his performance as a runner but also raised his coach’s concern as to whether he could be admitted to the elite team.
His physical difficulties never stopped him training. He would happily confide to his coach: ‘I made some progress today!’ It was not long before he was promoted to the elite team, attending strenuous training after school, travelling on his own by train to reach the sports ground.
Ms Lung explains that sport development achieves much more than bodily strength. For Chi Yung, his posture improved, counteracting the effects of the growth on his back. He became more alert, developing in his confidence and social skills. In his academic lessons, his attention and participation improved. In general, he was able to handle life much more readily.
As one of the team members to represent Hong Kong in games in Shanghai and Malaysia, he achieved some great results – winning the 400 metres, coming second in the 200 metres, and claiming a third place in the 4x100m relay. Then in the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games he finished third in the 3,000m and, with his team-mates, matched that finish in the 4x400m relay. Other Shek Wu students also excelled in athletics, gymnastics, badminton, bowling and table tennis, some achieving gold medals.
I asked Chi Yung about his experiences. He had started learning in a regular school but struggled with the academic requirements. Since coming to Shek Wu, however, he has gained an appreciation of physical education, maths, language skills and domestic science. He told me he particularly likes to cook chicken! It is his hope to continue to represent Hong Kong with other athletes and, after graduation in two years, to train as a cook in a vocational training centre.
Chi Yung’s exposure to elite training has helped in his overall development. In the Special Olympics thanksgiving celebration event, his mother said her son had really grown up, the tough training contributing to his perseverance and the shaping of his personality. In the midst of difficult times for his family, Chi Yung has been proactive as the elder son, giving care to the older and very young family members.
It is no small accomplishment that the school has nurtured several outstanding athletes. Chi Yung’s enthusiasm and potential have been encouraged by the commitment of school teachers and by the school environment. Long-time school principal Addy Cheung is able to describe the unique youngsters and the challenges they face.
A third of the school’s 160 students suffer from autism. Others have varying mental and physical setbacks, requiring specific approaches in order to develop each child’s potential.
Through the Shek Wu Special School, The Salvation Army has provided a quality caring and Christian environment for young people for nearly 20 years. In 1989, an invitation to start the school in the New Territories followed from the Army’s established reputation in working with mentally disadvantaged children elsewhere in Hong Kong. With significant local sponsorship, the building was completed and the first students graduated in 1996. In 1997 the first school athletic meet took place.
Specialist services such as speech therapy and physiotherapy have been introduced since then to benefit the students.
The school has also benefitted by the development of its students. Chi Yung has helped out as a much-admired demonstrator in the physical education classes, is an enthusiastic team player in sports, takes part in performance singing and hand drums and is also keen to contribute to social service outreach. His story is an inspiration in overcoming adversity and reaching new heights.
At the most recent graduation of 10 students, I witnessed the pride and joy of the young people receiving their academic achievement, distinctive service, best improvement and various other awards. The future is much brighter for many disadvantaged children who have attended Shek Wu. And for those who know Tso Chi Yung, there is a sense that he will keep taking hold of every opportunity he can to improve his abilities, to enter fully into life and to make a difference in the lives of those around him.
At the time of writing, Major Marion Weymouth worked in the Educational Services Department of The Salvation Army’s Hong Kong and Macau Command. As of 1 October she took up a new appointment as Education Officer at the Zambia Territory’s training college.