Address by Dr. Peter NEWBERY


President HU, Governors of the board, fellow graduates, teachers, students and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I must say that I felt very surprised but also greatly honoured when asked if I would accept the award of the Degree “Doctor of Social Sciences” honoris causa, from Hong Kong Shue Yan University.

I was particularly pleased when I was told that the degree would be conferred in recognition of the work we have been doing over the last 25 years at Youth Outreach. Youth Outreach first began life as a vague idea in my head in 1983 that we should do something for the increasing numbers of kids in trouble, who were running away from home and hanging out on the streets. However, in 1989, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service ran a territory-wide survey on youth work which clearly indicated the need for some kind of “crisis intervention” service and so my vague idea began to take a more concrete shape.

In 1990, I wrote down what I had in mind and consulted various people in the field of youth work and then in 1991, we actually opened up for business. We began service with a 24-hour residential centre for boys situated in an old apartment of 1,000 square feet which we rented for one dollar per year from the Land Development Corporation (now the Urban Renewal Authority). It had formerly been a “fish ball stall” and when you turned on the taps the water came out yellow. But it was our own place!

Since then, Youth Outreach has earned a reputation for pioneering innovative and creative services. As I have just mentioned we started with Hong Kong’s first residential centre that could take youngsters 24-hours a day with little or no bureaucracy. We set up Hong Kong’s first 24 hour telephone hot-line for young people. We pioneered “allnight” outreaching work 5 years before the Government began “experimenting” with the idea. We were the first agency in Hong Kong to set up our employment service as a commercial enterprise. We were also the first agency to open a 24 hour a day; 7 day per week “Drop in Centre”. We also inaugurated Hong Kong’s first (and only) “School of Hip Hop.” None of this would have been possible without a dedicated band of staff, whose number has grown from 8 in 1991 to 160 this year.

Youth Outreach specialises in dealing with what were traditionally called “marginal youth.” The terminology in Hong Kong has actually gone through several changes – “marginal youth” became “double out” youth (out of school; out of work). This was later changed to “double waiting” (waiting for school; waiting for work) and now the fashionable term is “hidden youth.”

At Youth Outreach, we use none of these terms. We don’t believe that we have any of these kinds of young people. What we have at Youth Outreach is simply “young people” who are struggling to grow up in very difficult circumstances. As they struggle, they need encouragement and support. What we are trying to do is to give them this encouragement and support and provide opportunities for their development so that they can pick themselves up again and step back out onto the road of life.

The results we have been able to achieve have been the fruits of the efforts of the dedicated and hardworking staff at Youth Outreach. I can only say that they too share in this honour from Shue Yan University. On behalf of all of them I offer you my heartfelt thanks.

Most of the young people at Youth Outreach have little or no academic achievements. Indeed, many of them have never finished secondary school. But we have found that although they may not be good at Maths, Physics, English etc. they all have their own particular talents and when they are given the suitable opportunity to develop these talents they truly blossom and become proud of themselves and what they can achieve. The key is to give them the opportunity and encouragement.

My dear classmates, all of you, have the good fortune to study at Shue Yan University, but, like the young people at Youth Outreach, it is necessary for you make the best use of the opportunities which Shue Yan University offers to you so that ultimately, you too can make a positive contribution not only to yourself and your family but to our community in general. Your education here at Shue Yan University provides you with a wonderful start on the road of life. Stride out along this road with confidence and courage to build a better world.

Over the years, Shue Yan College and now Shue Yan University has made a name for itself in Hong Kong providing alternative educational opportunities for the young people of Hong Kong.

I feel honoured to be a “Doctor of Social Sciences” at Shue Yan University which itself has been a pioneer in the field of tertiary education, providing alternative options to the young people of Hong Kong.

I offer my deepest thanks to Hong Kong Shue Yan University for considering me to be qualified to share in this work.

Thank you.

Source: January Issue 2017

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