“I like to hang out with you!” “Me too, it’s so great to know you!” The two smiled at each other. Their joy, stemming from their mutual friendship, is contagious.
Mentor Lai-chun and mentee Man-man value their friendship very much, and they are learning and growing together through time. For they have overcome hurdles and made some memorable breakthroughs together.
Stargaze Camp for All and the Blind
They first met in the Stargaze Camp for All and the Blind in 2015. Lai-chun, Man-man and another volunteer were assigned to the same tent. They joined various activities in the camp such as stargazing, sunrise watching and booth games. Man-man participated actively in all the activities. They all enjoyed their time at the camp.
Among all the activities, sunrise watching was the most challenging for Man-man because of her physical condition. She missed watching the sunrise last year, so she decided to give it another shot this year with Lai-chun’s support. The vantage point for watching sunrise was an hour’s walking distance away from the tent. Walking is painful for Man-man due to her flatfeet. With encouragement from Lai-chun, Man-man reached the vantage
point despite her pain and tiredness. Although they eventually missed the sunrise again due to poor weather conditions, the experience became a memorable breakthrough made together by Lai-Chun and Man-man. They promised each other that they will attend the camp together again next year to see the sunrise.
Man-man and Lai-chun’s friendship continued to flourish at their running class. Coincidentally, both of them joined the same running class for the TWGHs “iRun” – Hong Kong Jockey Club Special Marathon. Since they knew each other, they paired up as teammates in the class. Man-man was not used to exercising regularly. In the first few classes, she walked most of the time and
needed to take constant breaks. With Lai-chun’s encouragement, Man-man made great progress over time. After five sessions, Man-man was able to finish the 3k race without any breaks. The result was very encouraging for both of them.
While it appears that Lai-chun had motivated Man-man to try new things and to step out of her comfort zone, Lai-chun does not agree with this. In Lai-chun’s eyes, Man-man is not a person who needs help, but an ordinary friend. They get along simply and directly. They inspire and support each other. Lai-chun believes that it was Man-man’s efforts and persistence that contributed the most to her own success.
Together we grow
Looking back, both of them have grown and changed. Owing to Man-man’s cheerful and optimistic personality, Lai-chun has learnt to control her emotions better and to simply enjoy life. Meanwhile, Lai-chun has taught Man-man table manners and social skills. They both also became healthier because of exercising together.
No friendship is flawless, and there are sometimes ups and downs along the way. For Lai-chun and Man-man, their friendship is enjoyable most of the time. However, there are times when Man-man does not feel as positive as she usually does. Over time, Lai-chun has learnt better skills to communicate with her. “Man-man is a cheerful and talkative girl. When she is down, I will tell her some jokes to cheer her up, or change the topic,” Lai-chun said.
Looking ahead, they are both keen to continue this precious friendship. Not only do they meet in the activities arranged by the centre, but they often plan their own meetups as well, such as having lunch, going to movies and visiting museums together. Additionally, Lai-chun hopes to introduce Man-man to her friends. By letting Man-man meet more people, Lai-chun hopes to improve other people’s understanding about Down Syndrome. She believes that the best way to promote the social integration is through personal face-to-face interaction.
Friendship is a precious gift. Man-man and Lai-Chun have successfully made some positive changes and breakthroughs together, and their friendship has enriched both their lives.