Seng Girls Visit Hong Kong – October, 2017

Update from Jane and Dan Chavasse

New Day have supported this wonderful group of girls since 2008.  Their home is the Darlag based SGVTS school high on the Tibetan plateau housing 120 vulnerable girls.  A group of twelve girls are selected from an enthusiastic and talented school community and are aged around 14-18 years old. The Seng Girls are then sent to a specialist Dance school in Xining which gives them not only professional dance training but a mainstream education recognised on the mainland. This offers them three routes off the plateau , professional dance , tourist industry employment or further education. Interest and support of Ethnic minorities and how their Cultural histories may be of interest to Chinese tourists is growing locally but an education in Putonghua is imperative .

New Day hosted this group in 2016.  It was their debut in Hong Kong and they were very excited to be here. Dockpo, their teacher , and the girls billeted with several families who introduced them to family life in our city. We had an informal dance show from them and they drew us in to their culture and warm hearts. Dockpo always said he wanted to come back and we were delighted when he called us in September and said that he and the girls would come back to Hong Kong on October 23 for a two day visit. Just a few visas,  passports,travel permission and the usual hurdles to overcome but why let that get in the way!

As we waited in Hung Hom to collect the group we were a little concerned over how the girls would feel on their return.We shouldn’t have worried. They ran out of the station with arms outstretched and wide smiles asking after their host families and we were off. There was only one unexpected and very unwelcome surprise….Typhoon 8 signal was hoisted and remained stubbornly so! 

The New Day team had been working hard at setting up the full theatre experience at West Island, dinner was planned at Cyberport ( generously donated by New Day members Leesa and Brian Downie) and the ISF were hosting the Group on the Monday . At one point the trip looked like it could just not deliver what we had promised.That is, a new audience who may be inspired to donate, HKAPA /LCSD exposure and a professional setting that could offer the girls an opportunity to develop their dancing careers in the future. However the New Day team are not defeatists so using Greenery Gardens as a rallying point we gathered a strong local crowd who came armed with drinks, snacks and cash. The squash court provided the unlikely venue and the girls threw themselves into their costumes and gave us a highly memorable performance. Everyone adapted so brilliantly. After a beautiful traditional dance the girls lit up the room with a piece that they had choreographed themselves. With lively contemporary music and “dab” moves knitted in to the dance , the crowd went wild. Then to top it off they invited the children in the audience to join in and learn a few moves. Boys and girls alike lept to their feet and it was tremendous to see . The fun was reciprocated by an invitation from the local children to the Seng Girls to play ” football” outside as the adults enjoyed a wine or two amazed at the outcome of the day. One of the local children and a host, Grace Early , was so inspired by the encounter that she cut off her beautiful hair for sponsorship and raised over HKD 6000 for the girls.

Monday was another highlight of the Seng Girls’ trip. Roxanne Ismail had organised for the girls to give a ” masterclass ” to the Drama students at the ISF school followed by a lunchtime show to the school as a whole . It was a wonderful performance and a material introduction to the Group as the ISF wants to make them the girls the focus of fundraising and cultural exchange. Roxanne’s son already raised over HKD 9000 is a jumper sale with product donated by the Italian women’s association. They also called for a warm clothes collection and gathered 22 suitcases of great quality clothing that the girls managed to get back to Tibet to distribute with their fellow students from the little four year olds all the way up to the teachers. It should also be mentioned that local parents also generously gave to this collection.Thank you.

Finally we bade the Group farewell on Tuesday morning. The Girls have developed much in the last year with English levels and dance skills tangibly stronger. Many of them will graduate next year and will hope to keep their ambitions for sustainable careers alive. We hope to see them again next year and we will keep everyone posted on their development. They are truly grateful for the support they receive and we can feel proud that we have set some of the foundations for them going forward.