Operation Dawn Girl Centre From Inception To Development
In 1996, Reverend Paul Chan saw the need to provide gospel drug addiction treatment to female drug abusers. Constrained by shortage of financial resources, he could only spare a room on the top floor of our then Head Office on Prince Edward Road as temporary quarters for any female students enrolled with us. In the day time, these students were attended to by Chan himself along with staff from the Head Office. In the evening, several sisters who had to work in the day would come to help as volunteers, conducting Bible study and staying overnight with the students until the next morning.
In the beginning, there were only two students, which soon increased to seven. During holidays, our volunteers would bring them out camping and participating in adventure training activities. Through these exercises, their abilities to manage themselves and to deal with adversities and changes were greatly enhanced.
By 1998, the number of students increased so much that the quarters on the top floor could no longer afford enough living space for them. Thanks to God for what He had prepared for us, a three-storey village house with a garden was available for lease in Yuen Long. Chan rented it and had it converted to the new quarters of our Girl Centre. Female staffs on full-time basis were recruited to formally run the place. The programmes did not differ from that on Dawn Island for male students, i.e. in terms of daily timetable and all sorts of activities. For example, both male and female students were eligible to take part in Outward Bound training as well as those one-day tours to Ocean Park. At that time, the Social Welfare Department had only approved a capacity of six female students for us.
In 2002, the Social Welfare Department imposed that all addiction treatment centres must be licensed before they could continue to operate, and that to get a permanent licence, the facilities at each centre must comply with all government requirements, including the building structural safety, the adequacy of fire equipment, etc. When officials from the Social Welfare Department, the Fire Services Department and the Building Department came to inspect the Girl Centre’s condition, it was discovered that village houses like ours did not meet the regulations under the Fire Services Ordinance. To operate further, we had to move to a venue that was compliant. So from 2002 onwards, we spent a lot of time looking around for a suitable place whether it be part of a building, vacant land, or some public housing units of the Housing Department.
Then in 2004, following God’s guidance, we found some Housing Department flats in Tsing Yi which had been vacant for many years. We inquired with different government departments to see if we could convert those flats into our new quarters for female students. After an application process lasting for a couple of years, approval was obtained from the relevant government departments. Thereafter, we immediately hired an architect to draw up plans to convert three vacant flats into the new quarters. Including installation of a sprinkler system, fire hoses and four toilets, the project was to cost us more than one million Hong Kong dollars altogether. The preparation, from the initial drawing up of plans, to the approval of these plans, to the tendering formalities, lasted for a few years. The renovation work took another year. It was not until 16th October 2009 that we finally moved into our present Girl Centre in Tsing Yi.
In 2007, the Social Welfare Department approved to increase the capacity at the Tsing Yi Centre from six to ten students, which was subsequently increased to twelve, and further increased to fifteen by 2011. Nowadays in Hong Kong, there are as many addicted females as there are males, but the resources allocated by the society for rehabilitating the former are relatively less, i.e. demand for resources exceeding supply, so the waiting time for female abusers to be admitted to centre for treatment is often longer.