On a chilly February evening, a group of energetic youngsters were practicing lawn bowling together. A girl was getting ready for her chance to shine. Her confident eyes displayed how skillful and assertive she was. She then completed a perfect serve and all of her teammates cheered excitedly for her. She is Emily, the captain of the lawn bowling team.
A beautiful encounter
Every mother wants their child to become independent and gain more exposure to different aspects of society to broaden their horizons, and so Emily’s mother encouraged Emily to join the mentorship program of the ‘Industrious Adulthood and Positive Ageing for People with Down Syndrome and Intellectual Disability’ (IP) Project. Emily is a 20-year-old girl who loves singing, dancing, playing sports and computer games. She is also a packaging worker at the centre’s integrated vocational rehabilitation unit. Emily is an extrovert and is very popular among her friends. During this meaningful mentorship program, she met Janet, an important person in her life who has influenced her a lot.
Emily and Janet had met each other during lawn bowling class. They have been paired up as mentor and mentee for a year. Janet was recently retired and she wanted to explore her interests and find a way to help people in need. The IP Project aims to delay the symptoms of ageing for people with Down Syndrome. Janet was supportive of the rationale of the project and wants to motivate the mentees to do more exercise. So she joined the lawn bowling class to become a volunteer. Meanwhile, Emily had been preparing for the TWGHs “iRun” – Hong Kong Jockey Club Special Marathon, but her partner quit the competition due to personal reasons. And so Janet, also a sports lover, became Emily’s new partner. They got along with each other splendidly as they shared many common interests. Eventually, they became paired up as mentor and mentee for the IP Project. This relationship marked the magnificent beginning of their friendship.
Igniting the sparks of friendship
Janet accompanies Emily to lawn bowling practice every week. After the training, Janet will have dinner with Emily and her family, and they delight in spending time together. Emily is an outgoing girl and enthusiastic about many activities. She likes chatting with Janet via Whatsapp to share her happy moments, and she cherishes every second she spends with Janet. Besides, Janet always supports Emily to play whatever she likes. Apart from finding entertainment, Janet also encouraged Emily to make new friends and to keep fit. In order to expand Emily’s social circle and improve her friends’ understanding of people with Down Syndrome, Janet shared photos of Emily and her on Facebook and introduced Emily to her friends. She also invited Emily and her family to take part in her friends’ gatherings to meet them. Janet believes that everyone is born with their own talents and that “we can discover their unique qualities and build friendships with them if we treat them with genuineness”. She has made a thorough consideration before deciding to commit herself as a mentor because she values her promise and devotion to her mentee.
From friends to companions
Emily and Janet love to do exercise together in their spare time. As a result, Emily has become healthier and her walking posture has improved significantly. “iRun” was their most memorable event throughout the mentorship period. Participating in a marathon was a great challenge for Emily. However, she persevered and did not give up easily. With the support and encouragement from her family and from Janet, she finally completed the whole race. They were all thrilled and overwhelmed by this incredible experience. The moment they held hands to cross the finishing line was one of most remarkable moments of their relationship, bestowing them with a sense of success and satisfaction they would never forget.
The guardian angel
People say that Emily is a blessed child as she is loved dearly by her family and has found a soul mate like Janet. Emily and Janet have an intimate relationship and they both consider each other as life-long friends. At the same time, Janet has also become closely acquainted with Emily’s family. During the interview, we could see that they were heart-to-heart friends who enjoyed their time together. They were even planning a trip for the holidays. Janet said, “ Mentoring people with Down Syndrome is a meaningful experience as I can contribute to society”. She was also very grateful that she had met Emily and her family. The mentorship experience has enriched Janet’s life and in the end, she has received more than she has given, to her surprise. Emily has brought joy and more meaning to the life of both Janet and her family. Emily’s family has gone through hardships that made her mother distressed, and Emily was her reason for not giving up. It would seem that Emily is the guardian angel of the people she loves.