Food and Love

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FOOD & LOVE – Ms. Grace Wong

Vegan Mama Kitchen Facebook

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For this issue, we are excited to invite Grace Wong to talk about her family’s love of food with us. Grace – also known as Vegan Mama on her Facebook page Vegan Mama Kitchen and her cookbook ‘Simply Vegan. Simply Grace’ – is the mother of Tegan and Grant Yiu. She also teaches cooking classes at various venues to promote healthy eating for children and their families. Below is a recent chat between CAISPA’s Teresa and Grace.

Teresa: Thank you for spending time with us Grace, like all parents we all have busy schedules, and we appreciate your input. I know you are a Speech and Language Pathologist. To start, please tell us how you got so involved with running a cooking blog on Facebook.

Grace: Thank you Teresa, it’s my pleasure and thank you for having me. I have always loved cooking since pre-teen. My mom would ask me to join her in the kitchen and help out, starting with small tasks like washing and cutting. As I grew, she would get me to help with the actual cooking, and help her to come up with dinner menu when we had guests over. I became a vegetarian, then vegan since 1992. I would say I have always wanted to be innovative in creating vegetarian versions of all the dishes my mom would prepare just so my dad and I would not feel missed out. Now that I have my own vegan family, no doubt I would want my children to feel happy and proud, and not to feel left out with their dietary choice.

Teresa: That’s interesting. You said going vegan was their own choice?

Grace: Yes it was. Tegan and Grant made their own choices of going vegan at the age of 5 and 3 respectively – for the sole reason of their love of animals. But it’s not just about vegan. Tegan and Grant are responsible for all their own choices when it comes to food – be it snacks, meals or drinks.

Teresa: What is so special about their food choice then?

Grace: Well, they know how to break down the foods or beverages they are about to consume into raw ingredients. They also know how to read the labels on the package. When they realize that a pack of candy or a box of juice is simply made of white sugar, artificial color and flavor – they are in charge of whether or not to put it into their own system. This makes the choice prominent and much easier.

The kids also know how to distinguish between real and processed foods. They learn that real foods are grown naturally in the soil, while processed foods are manufactured. For example, oranges and broccoli are real foods, whereas sausages and fish balls are processed foods.

I could still remember the time when I got to go to Tegan and Grant’s classes to do a simple chocolate truffle demonstration (vegan version, of course). According to their classmates, the definition of ‘vegan’ is a person who does not consume any sugary or fatty foods such as candies, cookies or cupcakes (chuckled…) Where did all these come from, I thought to myself?! Yet, that was when I knew my children were simply making their own choices on the foods they were offered.

Teresa: Can you explain what the difference between a “vegan” and “vegetarian” diet is?

Grace: In general a vegetarian diet does not involve any meat. A vegan diet goes one step further to omit all products that are derived from animals, namely eggs and dairy, including cow’s milk and cheese. In other words, a vegan diet is completely plant-based. There are also other hybrid diets such as “Pescetarian” – people who do not consume meat but takes seafood, or “Pollotarian” – people who do not eat meat but would take poultry. Another term that has become quite popular in recent years is “Flexitarian” – who are flexible and eat meat occasionally. 

I don’t want to over-complicate the terminology, and there really are no fixed rules. I believe the end of the day, diet is a personal choice.

Cooking Class for Grade 6 (Dec 2017)

 

Teresa: Wow! That’s so amazing! But how is it possible given we are always surrounded by all types of temptations?

Grace: I agree it’s not easy. My husband and I are blessed that Tegan and Grant are still sticking to this principle at this age. And I guess this is where Vegan Mama comes into the picture. It all started with my desire to create dishes that are as tasteful, visually-appealing, and of course ‘organic’, meaning without the unnecessary “add-ons”. In the beginning, people would ask me for recipes after I posted pictures of dishes that I prepared for the family on Facebook. After a while, I decided to start a FB page to share my recipes. So I guess Vegan Mama helps to neutralize the desire for the ‘tempted’ foods you referred to. But as parents, we also demonstrate how we make our own food choices as models.

Teresa: So do you involve Tegan and Grant in the kitchen, like how your mom did?

Grace: Of course! And like me, they also started with simpler tasks when they were younger. They are now at the stage where they would help with cutting, wrapping, seasoning and stir-frying. They are also involved in the buying and cleaning processes. Lately we started a “restaurant” that is open on weekends, and it’s only opened for families. Tegan and Grant would help design the menu, buy and cook the food, decorate and set the restaurant table. We found that the more they are involved in the preparation process, the more they would respect and appreciate the food, and hence no wastage.

Teresa: That sounds like a lot of fun for the family! And I couldn’t agree more with you about the importance of not wasting food. It is such a gigantic issue for us as a city.

Grace: Indeed. A big part of it is our relationship with food. When we talk about love of food, it doesn’t just end with the way the food is prepared or their nutritional values. We spend a lot of time talking about how much resources are spent in the making of the food – from the moment the seed was planted in the farm, all the way to how it ended up on the table. As a society we talk about protecting our environment a lot, and it is very important for the kids to realize that a large chunk of global energy resource and pollution are related to the production of food. Wasting food equals wasting global resource. Again this goes back to being models for our children. Often times when we go out for meals, the servers are impressed how there is no food wasted on our table. Of course with Grant having a huge appetite always helps(cackled).

Teresa: That’s fantastic. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there is no leftover food being sent to landfills just because people over-order or do not pack leftovers away with them?

Grace: Certainly and I think we can achieve it if we all play our part. Food plays an important role in everyone’s life. The love of food is a life journey and our relationship with food evolves over time. I truly believe we can be an influence to our children. We can show them how we make appropriate choices, for our health and for our environment.

Teresa: Thank you very much for sharing with us your insight!

Music can change our children; Music can also change our community

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About Music Children Foundation

The Background

The inspiration of forming Music Children Foundation (“MCF”) came from a BBC documentary on a music education programme in Venezuela “El Sistema” which I watched on the plane in 2010.   The film featured how the programme provided free classical music education to impoverished Venezuelan children in order to help them to build up confidence and to get out of poverty and crime. It touched me so much that I was determined to do similar programmes to help underprivileged children in Hong Kong.

A Dream Turned Into Reality

My dream came true in 2013. MCF was formally established by a group of dedicated musicians. We strive to provide free music education for underprivileged children at an early age, making it an enjoyable experience that helps them to build up confidence, to strengthen characters and to express themselves through music.   We offer totally free all-round musical training programs for kids under age 12. Children whose families are under Comprehensive Social Security Assistant and/or receive financial assistance from Working Family and Student Financial Assistance Agency are eligible to apply for our programme. We also provide family support programs to enhance child-parent bonding and promote harmonious family relationship. The programme offers talks, seminars and workshops to parents to help improve their social and parenting skills, enhance self-confidence and build up aspirations. Our team will take regular home visits to the families to understand more of their needs in order to provide timely support. Family members are also invited to attend the music training classes, appreciation workshops, music camps and concerts so as to bring music not only to the kids but also to the whole family. We also believe the engagement of the family members in different activities will encourage their kids to learn music.

A Humble Beginning

In the beginning, we had very limited resources. We did not have enough music instruments and class space. Children could not have their own musical instruments. They had to share the same instrument with other classmates. They could not bring the musical instruments home for practice because they lived in subdivided flats, they did not have enough space for the instruments. What they could do was to practice with their mouth pieces and even to do the practice at the roof top in order not to disturb their neighbours. Also, the Learning Centre was a really small flat. Children had to squeeze in a small pantry to practice. Nonetheless, insufficient musical instruments and space made them stronger and more determined to do well in their musical trainings.

In the programme, we are also able to know more about the children’s family background. Many of them are single parents and/or new immigrants from Mainland China. We are glad to see that the parents are able to form a group. It is like a small MCF community, allowing them to make new friends and reach out to other areas in Hong Kong in participating in our art events and activities.

In addition, children are also able to widen their horizon by joining our public performances at schools, elderly centres, NGOs and Government House. We open a door for the kids to the “outside world” and they keep coming back to us and say, “MCF is a treasure for us. Compared with other kids of our similar background, we’re so blessed. Thank you.” Our Children have attended more than 80 concerts and music activities this year. To showcase our Music Children’s achievements in their musical trainings, we just presented a concert “Music·Children Musical 2017” with its original music and lyrics at APA in early November. The Musical was officiated by Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, GBM, GBS, JP, Chief Secretary for Administration of the HKSAR. We are so pleased that the Concert was well received by the public and our work was recognized by Mr Matthew Cheung on his blog on 12 Nov 2017.   We are very much encouraged.

Into The Future

Our programme first started with 36 children in Shamshuipo but now it has reached out to more than 2000 children and their families. We are currently serving over 500 children with free music trainings, including learning music instruments, orchestral practice, choir training, attending concerts, public performance and exchanges with top-notched musicians. In 2018, our services will be expanded to other districts, such as Yau Tsim Mong, Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong and Kwai Ching. Recently, we are so blessed to be able to secure some funding to set up a scholarship scheme, supporting distinguished students aged over 12 who have graduated from our 4-year training programme for further professional trainings to realize their full potential in music.

My two sons, Mark and Moses, have become MCF volunteers since it was founded. They help out in our activities and home visits.   I strongly believe that music is not just for the rich and elites but should be accessible to all children irrespective of their financial background. Music can enhance children’s learning ability. They are more focused, more attentive and more able to manage their time effectively. Music can change our children; music can also change our community.

For more details about Music Children Foundation, please visit our website:

Our Website

or Facebook:

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CAISPA Interview with Mr. Raymond Li, the Junior Astronaut’s Father

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Belle Li, our Grade 6 student of CAIS, was one of the eight Junior Astronauts who attended 2017 U.S. Space Camp Program at NASA.

CAISPA have cordially invited Raymond Li, Belle’s father who also accompanied Belle to visit NASA, to share with us how to support his daughter to make her dreams come true. Here is the conversation between CAISPA (represented by Teresa) and Raymond Li:

Teresa: Congratulations Raymond and welcome back! It was not easy to be selected as one of the eight Astronauts among thousands of students in Hong Kong. Can you share with us what made Belle successful in the application?

Raymond: Belle loves reading, science and astronomy is one of her favorite subjects. She initiated to apply for this Junior Astronauts Programme after reading an article about the Programme from a Children’s Science Magazine last year. Apart from her passion for astronomy, I think the study in CAIS has helped Belle to build up a solid foundation in terms of researching strategy, presentation skills as well as perseverance in difficult situations. Her sound knowledge of space and confidence in presentation impressed the judges. Most importantly, she knows she could be strong and calm through prayers.

Teresa: Can you briefly let us know what the requirements are and what Belle did in the selection process?

Raymond: According to MassMutual’s requirements, the applicant must be aged between 7 – 11 years old, be physically fit and out-going, have good Chinese and English communication skills, be self-confident, and possess perseverance and an inquisitive mind. For the 1st Round Recruitment, Belle wrote a story about some high-tech inventions for the journey to Trappist-1 and attended an interview on the recruitment day. 50 applicants out of some two thousands were selected for the next round.

The 50 successful candidates together with an accompanying parent would be required to attend a Two-day One-night Training Camp with lectures from the assistant curator of the Hong Kong Space Museum and training from the Outward Bound.

For the 2nd Round Competition, it involved a physical challenge, space knowledge competition, and presentation in both Chinese and English. 20 candidates would be selected for the final individual interview in front of a panel of 4 judges and answered questions in both Chinese and English. Finally, 8 candidates were selected for the Junior Astronauts Program.

Teresa: What were the challenges that Belle encountered, and how did she overcome?

Raymond: The judges of the final interview were celebrities from all walks of life. They had high expectations towards the candidates. The questions from Ms. Chea Shuk Mui (a media veteran) and Mr. Leung Wai Ming (the Curator of the Hong Kong Space Museum) were challenging. For example, what you would do if you met a monster in space, the characteristics of a particular planet, and some situational questions. To impress the judges, the answers must be concise and creative. To conquer anxiety, good preparation and prayer is the key.

Teresa: From a parent’s perspective, how did you support Belle to achieve her dream to be a Junior Astronaut?

Raymond: To become a Junior Astronaut is a journey of dream chasing. It started with walking with Belle and helping her to expand her horizon. We visited different museums, attended guided tours, and watched a variety of movies and exhibitions. We noticed that she got interested in the solar system, the beginning of the universe and the black hole. The more she knew, the more curious she was and the more she wanted to learn. We would browse NASA’s website together for the latest space news and read stories of different scientists. We also read articles about how to face failures and learn from mistakes.

Teresa: Well, that was a very good experience! The final question is about the space camp – what did you and Belle take away from this experience?

Raymond: As presented by Belle at the Celebration Luncheon, she stated that this overseas space adventure was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience. The exhibition centers in Huntsville and Kennedy Space Center made her astonished at how patient people were in striving for achievements in exploring the space. She learnt how they first tried making reusable space shuttles but failed. However, they kept trying. They never gave up! Also, meeting with astronauts Robert Lee Gibson and Samuel Thornton Durrance was amazing, since she always dreamed of meeting a real NASA astronaut. She learned a lot about their missions in space. The simulators of space mission, multi-axis trainer, and anti-gravity moon trainer helped her to feel how it was like to be trained as an astronaut, as well as how they gained respect for risking their lives in danger in order to help us to learn more and find another habitable home on another planet for the future.

As inspired by Tom Milner (Space Shuttle Engineer) who said, “We have dreamed big, ventured on wild seas, lost sight of the land a few times and found stars to guide us on our journey. We expanded our horizons and learned lessons. I can truly say I was blessed by our Creator to be part of the greatest human adventure of all time.” Belle understood that we should persevere in the darkness and dream big.

Belle did at a point wonder whether there were contradictions between the theory of scientists and the creation of God. Praise the Lord, we found some great testimonies of Christian scientists, like Isaac Newton who spread the gospel wholeheartedly and helped his best friend Edmond Halley (Halley’s comet was named after him) to believe in Jesus, and attended a talk about the relationship between science and religion, which strengthened her belief in God.

For me, from the creation of the universe and the journey to US, we experienced how great our God is and how amazing His wisdom, creations and love is. It reminds me a verse from bible. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV)

Teresa: Last but not least, I think there are many parents who would like to know how their children can be a Junior Astronaut. Would you please give us some advice?

Raymond: The parents should chase the dream with the kid starting from the love of Astronomy. Do enjoy the walk with the kid and go in-depth into the knowledge by whatever means the kid prefers in a fun way. The item for submission in the 1st Round Recruitment must be creative. The kid should be well-equipped with the knowledge of space and be aware of the latest news from NASA. Do visit the HK Space Museum for shows and seminars. Don’t forget to brush up the presentation skills in both English and Cantonese.

Teresa: Thank you so much Raymond for your sharing!