To discover one’s own path, everyone goes through a different journey. Some are able to identify target early and work towards it, while some struggle to find the way they prefer. For F.6 student Tsz-yan, academic learning is not her strong suit and once she did not have a clear idea what direction her way should be. Thanks to her school’s referral, she joined The Army’s Project ‘SMILE with Hope’, through which she got the chance to be an intern in the pet grooming salon and found her career direction.

Training as a pet grooming professional
‘SMILE with Hope’ Project provided an internship opportunity for Tsz-yan. She first needed to pass the qualifying course and obtain the relevant certificete, then started her work at the salon officially. At the beginning of her internship, Tsz-yan started from the bottom and did all the duties including cleaning the pets, showering and drying them, cutting nails for them and handling customers. Although already having a certificate, she was still bewildered at the beginning. ‘I didn’t know how to start. I was not familiar with my colleagues and I was too timid to ask questions. I just stood aside and stared in silence.’

Clare, Tsz-yan’s employer, admitted that at that time she felt Tsz-yan did not have confidence and seemed not committed enough to the work, for which she has spoken with the social worker in charge of the Project. ‘For example, when I taught her pet clipping, she finished her assignment so quickly that many places were found not done well enough. Also, she often replied by a simple “yes” or “ok”. This was not exactly what I expected. At that time, social worker asked me to give Tsz-yan more time.’

During the internship, Tsz-yan gradually became more committed to the job thanks to her amiable colleagues and employer, and with time she got better doing her job.

‘When I don’t know how to do something, I will ask my colleagues and they will first explain once to me, and then let me try or help me.’

Other than pet grooming and customer serving skills, she also learnt about keeping the shop clean, taking care pets of the shop and customers, and pet product knowledge. Furthermore, her horizon was broadened by attending different work functions with Clare. The whole experience was beneficial and unforgettable to her.

A self-transformation experience
Tsz-yan found herself changed a lot during this internship experience. ‘I was so shy and timid, and I didn’t like to talk. I thought even if I talked the others would not understand me, but because of this job, I have to face different pets and customers and I have learnt the importance of explaining things clearly. I became more patient too. For example, if a puppy is being naughty, we should treat it with care instead of losing temper; or when we face customers, we should listen to them and answer their questions with patience.’

Out of the teenagers that Clare has helped, Tsz-yan’s transformation was the biggest. Clare can see that, besides becoming more patient, Tsz-yan is now more confident, responsible and willing to change. When a new job is assigned to her, Tsz-yan is confident that she can do it. Positive change of Tszyan is the reason why Clare insists on giving internship opportunities to young people through referrals from different organisations.

‘I think I should give young people more opportunities, to allow them to start their careers and find their own ways through learning and growing. I am happy to see that our interns all became more optimistic with positive changes.Their growth keeps my faith in providing internship opportunities to other young people.’

This year Tsz-yan has finished her DSE and now she has joined the pet grooming business as a full-time employee of a pet shop. She admitted she was not good at studying and she once had some unrealistic plans, but the internship experience has opened a new door for her, allowing her to realise that a suitable job is not about how much one can earn, but whether one can learn and get satisfaction.

‘SMILE with Hope’

‘SMILE with Hope’ Project provides one-stop multidisciplinary intervention service for students from primary to secondary schools, addressing their growth needs. For secondary school students, the Project provides life planning service for the Junior group and internship opportunities for the Senior group. It allows students to get a realistic view about working environments and their own strengths and weaknesses, which can help them better prepare themselves for their future careers.