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How 2 teachers and a father founded an organisation to boost social and emotional skills in students

Updated: 2 days ago

  • JUST FEEL aims to transform communications culture in schools and families to boost emotional well-being of children

  • One founder says ‘open dialogue and physical affection’ can bridge emotional gap between parents and their children

Some of the programme officers at JUST FEEL, a finalist in the Spirit of Hong Kong Awards 2023. Photo: Kong Yat-pang

Recognising the profound impact that childhood experiences, teacher-pupil interactions and parent-child relationships can have on a child’s development, a group of passionate education staff have joined forces to promote compassionate communication, as well as good social and emotional skills in schools.

The teachers founded the non-profit organisation JUST FEEL in 2018 and dedicated themselves to a transformation of the communication culture in schools and families to boost the emotional well-being of schoolchildren.

“One simple yet powerful way to bridge the emotional gap between parents and children is through open dialogue and physical affection,” Raymond Yang Sze-ngai, the co-founder and executive director of JUST FEEL, said.

“Simple gestures, such as giving a warm hug or offering words of care, can be game-changers when it comes to building stronger bonds between parents and their children.”

Now JUST FEEL has been selected as a finalist in the annual Spirit of Hong Kong Awards, organised by the South China Morning Post and property developer Sino Group, in the Spirit of Teamwork category.

The awards were designed to highlight the achievements of remarkable people and organisations whose work might otherwise go unnoticed.

JUST FEEL was set up by Yang, Matthew Kwok Tsz-lok, who have worked as primary schoolteachers, and Anthony Ngai King-kwok.

They observed through their classroom experience that many pupils struggled to express their emotions and often resorted to tears or engaging in conflicts.

Yang and Kwok realised the importance of prevention in the promotion of emotional well-being of pupils from diverse backgrounds and with varying needs.

Ngai, a father who highly values emotional education, shared their vision.

By promoting “Compassionate Communication and Social-Emotional Education” in schools, their goal is to help children to develop the habit of expressing their feelings and needs from an early age and to help them develop healthy relationships and boost their emotional well-being.

“Our programmes and educational materials are developed through a collaborative process with the schoolteachers we partner with. This involves conducting teacher workshops to gather valuable insights and perspectives, ensuring that our materials are tailored to meet the specific needs of each school,” Yang said.

JUST FEEL partnered with the Mission Covenant Church Holm Glad No. 2 Primary School in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years to create three “compassionate parents’ days”.

The events were designed to foster equal and safe discussions, with the most important goal of encouraging children to open up about their feelings to their parents.

Pupils and parents had an equal opportunity to speak during the 15-minute sessions and the teacher played an important role in coordinating the exchange, reminding the listening party not to interrupt.

(From left) JUST FEEL’s Anthony Ngai, Vincent Ma, Matthew Kwok and Raymond Yang, whose non-profit is a finalist in this year’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards. Photo: Kong Yat-pang

Connie Siu-ting, the principal of the Mission Covenant Church Holm Glad No. 2 Primary School, said she recognised the need to encourage pupils to express their feelings and emotions.

The school has been a partner of JUST FEEL since 2021. Through collaboration with the organisation it has developed strategies to create a compassionate school culture.

She said she had seen significant improvements in the emotional stability, behaviour, and motivation to learn in pupils.

“We understand that many parents, especially those in low income families, may be occupied with work and unintentionally overlook the importance of bonding with their children during their formative years,” Siu added.

“By partnering with JUST FEEL, we are not only providing support for children’s emotional well-being, but we are also educating parents about the importance of caring for their children’s emotions.”

“We have received feedback from several dads who shared that they were amazed to hear their sons open up during the entire session. I believe this experience can have a lasting impact on students’ childhood and shape them as they transition into adulthood,” Siu said.

Vincent Ma Wai-lok, a programme officer at JUST FEEL, is responsible for organising the “compassionate parents’ days”. and emphasised the importance of collaboration between schools and parents.

“Throughout the entire process, from the initial planning and preparation to the execution of the event, we were delighted to witness a strong sense of trust and collaboration among the schools, teachers, parents and schoolchildren involved,” Ma said.

Yang added it was important to canvass the views of the children involved in JUST FEEL programmes, as well those of teachers and schools.

“Through the use of stickers as a means of expression, we found that students now show a greater willingness to attend parents’ days,” Yang said.

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