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A step in the right direction
Jan Chan
update on Saturday, March 13, 2010
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In a bid to steer teenage girls away from drugs and petty crime, sportswear company Reebok, which is now a subsidiary of the adidas Group, has been running programmes to help at-risk girls in the United States since the early 1980s.

Adidas in Hong Kong followed that lead and launched its own Step One initiative in August 2008.

Operated in partnership with the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG), the programme is specifically for girls aged 12 to 18 from underprivileged backgrounds. Some have previous arrest records or have spent time under supervision or in care.

"We are aiming to rebuild the young girls' confidence and help them regain a sense of discipline in their lives," says Anne Tsui, human resources and administration director at adidas Hong Kong.

"We also hope they will explore new interests and develop strengths through taking part in outdoor activities."

The 18-month programme consists of three modules. There are lessons in sports, including golf, Thai boxing and volleyball, plus hip-hop dancing. Participants also do voluntary work such as visiting homes for the elderly.

Trained HKFYG social workers help to identify candidates suitable for the programme, with most coming from Tuen Mun, Kwai Chung and Wong Tai Sin districts.

"Up to now, 95 young women have taken part," Tsui says. "We can see that they have improved their communication skills and have got rid of many bad habits."

About 30 company employees also stepped forward as volunteers to help run the programme.

"Since the target is to help girls and young women, we only asked for female colleagues to volunteer," Tsui says. "They must show a high level of commitment, be patient and positive, and be willing to share. Volunteers can choose the district they prefer and will join in activities with the girls every Saturday."

Michelle Ip Wai-yan, a senior product executive with adidas, has a busy work schedule but regularly makes time to support the programme.

"It takes quite a lot of commitment and means I need to get up earlier, but I enjoy it very much," she says. "I had been thinking about doing something to help young people because you hear so much about how they can get into trouble. The programme has given me the opportunity to get involved in a practical way."

Acting like a big sister, Ip has learned new sports and has shared her experiences with others in the programme. "I'm so glad to see that their lives have been changed," she says. "For example, one of them was very shy at the beginning but recently acted as emcee for their graduation ceremony. All things considered, though, I think the volunteers have learned far more than they contribute."

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