New Internationalist

Success Story

May 1982

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Success story
Some sponsored children can be catapulted from poverty. When she was a little girl, So Yin Yu was sponsored in Hong Kong. As a result she managed to 'escape' to Australia - from where she is now sponsoring a child of her own in Bolivia.

So Yin’s story begins in the very crowded Hong Kong of the 1950s, to which her family, like hundreds of thousands of others, had fled without money or possessions from Red China.
‘We had very little money,’ she said. ‘My father worked at any job he could find and my mother worked long hours to supplement income. She sewed sequins and beads on handbags. I used to help her after school. We ate sparingly. Good quality food was a luxury we couldn’t afford.'

It was under these circumstances that So Yin became a foster child in 1959 — the year that Foster Parents Plan (PLAN) began working in Hong Kong to help the refugees who poured in from Communist China.

She remembers vividly the day she became a foster child. It was a Saturday and she was playing in the nearby church yard when someone was sent to fetch her home to have her photograph taken by the PLAN social worker.

‘Of course, I didn’t know then what it was all about. I was quite bewildered. But I found out later that my Headmistress at school had told PLAN about me and my family. My mother was so grateful to her for bringing PLAN into our lives, that she sent me to school with a little offering as a token. But the Headmistress would not accept it and made me take it home again.’

So Yin became the foster child of Dr. & Mrs. Herring in Alberta, Canada.

She firmly believes that the greatest benefit of PLAN sponsorship for her was the opportunity it gave her to continue her education and realise her potential.

‘I would never have been able to enter High School without the support of my foster parents. Even finishing primary would have been in doubt.’

During the eleven years that So Yin was a foster child, the situation of her family greatly improved. Her brothers became apprentices in various trades. Her father obtained government employment.

So Yin worked hard in Hong Kong and at twenty three she had saved enough money to travel to the United Kingdom to undertake a secretarial course and improve her English. Once in the United Kingdom, the letters between Hong Kong and Alberta became telephone calls across the Atlantic, and shortly afterwards, when the Herrings visited England, foster child and foster parents were to meet for the first time.

‘It was a very special moment for me. They were two of the most important people in my life and it was wonderful to meet them after so many years.’

Now, five years later, So Yin is happily settled in Sydney, working as secretary to the Director of an Investment Company.

‘I have written to Dr. & Mrs. Herring to let them know that I am now a foster parent myself. I know they will be as pleased about it as my mother is.’

‘Mum always used to impress upon me what a lucky girl I was to be in PLAN. Now it’s my turn, I want to offer the same opportunities to my foster child and her family in Bolivia.’

‘When I compare my life today to what it would have been without PLAN, I am very grateful to be in a position to give something back.’

‘After all,’ So Yin finished with a smile, ‘no-one knows better than I do what it really means to be a foster child.’

From Plan Australia News

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Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 111 This feature was published in the May 1982 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 111

New Internationalist Magazine issue 111
Issue 111

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