A different kind of free lunch – by Wendy Wong

In the morning on the second day of this trip, we went to visit one of the schools of the summer kindergarten programme in a small village called Chiselet. This program provides a place for the children to learn and study during the summertime. Since the school is quite far away from their homes, a lot of Roma children stopped going to school after a short while; therefore, the school uses free lunches to attract the children to go and stay in school.

Wendy Wong
Wendy Wong

We were welcomed by the children with a cultural dance performance, followed by a sharing session with their mothers. The mothers told us that they noticed changes in their children after they started coming to school and how they realized that education is very useful.

Cultural dance performance by children dressed traditional outfit
Cultural dance performance by children dressed in traditional outfits
Sharing session with the Roma families
Sharing session with the Roma families

After the school visit, we went to visit a family of four, a father living with his three daughters. We were told that the mother left a few years ago because the family was too poor, and the father soon started drinking to escape from the pressure and the unhappiness. It was hard for him to find jobs, so sometimes he and his girls suffered from hunger as they couldn’t afford food. The situation improved when the daughters were enrolled in the school, and the father made a promise to the school that he would stop drinking. He has been sober ever since.

Ex-alcoholic father with his daughters
Father with his daughters
Children enjoying their free lunch
Children enjoying their free lunch

I feel guilty about what I have seen today. In Hong Kong, we always seek the latest mobile phone, brand name products. Even a five-year-old child will most likely ask for a smart phone to play with instead of going to the playground to have fun with other children; and if we are full after a meal, we might throw away the leftovers without giving it a second thought. But I saw Romanian children who only ate a portion of their lunch and then packed up their lunch boxes for their families. Would the children in Hong Kong do this?

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