Treating family to a meal after payday may be common for many people, but for Kenny, it is a significant breakthrough in his life. The 29-year-old has cocooned at home without working over the past nine years, spending every single day surfing the Web. His parents, despite feeling downhearted about their son’s severe social phobia, did not know how to help the situation until they found The Salvation Army ‘E.A.S.Y. Job: Mentorship Scheme for Youth’ (Mentorship Scheme), a program that helped Kenny stepping out of his cocoon and rejoining the society. Today, Kenny has found his aspiration in the bakery industry and gained confidence in getting along with other people.

Cocooning because of social phobia

‘I used to feel very nervous and stressed about meeting people…’ Kenny recalled his experience of social phobia. It originated from the days when he was being excluded from his classmates in secondary school. With no appropriate support obtained at that time, he gradually shut himself in and was later diagnosed with agoraphobia, a condition that made him terrified whenever he found himself in a crowded place. Eventually it had to take him a great deal of courage just to step out of his home. As a result, other than going to school, he kept himself hidden at home most of the time.

Kenny did not do well in his secondary school certificate examinations and was not able to continue his studies. Lacking motivation to find employment, for the next nine years he spent his days surfing the Web at home. ‘Web surfing every day without a purpose is boring and meaningless. Sometimes my parents would say something sarcastic to me and I would talk back, but deep down I actually felt rather bad,’ said Kenny. However, when he thought about having to deal with strangers at work, he would cop out right away. Even though his friends occasionally referred him to different jobs, Kenny found it difficult to fit in and get along with his colleagues, so he has not stayed in any job for more than a month.

Rediscovering self

Last year, Kenny’s family brought him a leaflet about The Salvation Army ‘Mentorship Scheme’, which made him change his mind and finally summoned the courage to enroll into the scheme. To his surprise, this decision brought him completely new experience and perspective. In the training sessions, Kenny took up communication skills again and learnt how to get along with people with different personalities. In addition, a ‘life instructor’ and social worker were arranged for Kenny through the Scheme to help him discover his own self, explore his life plans and apply his newly acquired skills in the future workplace. After going through interviews and job matching, he got an offer from BreadTalk Concept Hong Kong Limited, working as ‘Junior Baker’ in the Jordan Branch where he learnt to make bread from scratch from his workplace mentor.

When asked why he wanted to be a baker, Kenny beamed like a child, ‘It’s because I like eating bread. It’s more fun if I make it myself!’ Encouraged by the Scheme, Kenny worked on finding out his true passion and the pleasant experience of cake-making once he had at home came to his mind, making him realise how much he enjoyed the sense of satisfaction from baking. Of course, having passion is not enough for things to work out in the real workplace – Kenny must adhere to the standards set by his mentor, i.e. punctuality, tidiness and cleanliness, sharp eyes and quick hands. Now the young man manages to make over a hundred trays of bread non-stop in the morning, then prepare for the next day’s filling right in the afternoon, and clean up the kitchen by the end of the day – literally not a minute is wasted!

Start building interpersonal relationships in the workplace

Vincent, Senior Baker of the BreadTalk Jordan Shop, is Kenny’s workplace mentor who works closely with him. Since Kenny joining the shop two years ago, Vincent has been giving his mentee step-by-step guidance, patiently guiding him to become a professional baker who can work on his own. For Vincent, seeing the changes in Kenny has been the greatest reward for taking part in this Scheme. ‘When he started working here, he would only respond with single words or even hardly speak. I could only guess whether he understood what I meant. Later, I clearly instructed him on how to respond properly, and he was willing to change.’

It is even more gratifying for Vincent as he sees Kenny slowly open his mind and start mingling with his colleagues. After work, they have dinner together and talk about video games and their favourite animations, which is indeed a 180-degree change for Kenny! Feeling the incredible patience given by his mentor, Kenny is willing to take heart in his learning, and if there is a problem at work, he will take the initiative to solve it by his own, which allows Vincent to know that he is worth counting on. Because of his good work performance, Kenny was promoted this July. On top of his basic duties, he now acts as a little mentor for new staff!

Bring about life transformation

The Scheme not only helps the disadvantaged youths to seek job opportunities, but more importantly it can bring changes to their lives. Hence, the Scheme invites experienced persons to act as life instructors. Alex is one of our close partners. Having been working in the trading market for years, Alex knows full well the way of communication and takes delight in sharing some useful tips with Kenny and other young trainees. Alex admits, ‘it is requisite to help young people improve their communication skills. Good communication is not common sense, but a skill to be acquired through learning. Kenny and many young people alike need the opportunities to learn and put such skills into practice.’

Genuine caring helps to enhance good communication and relationships. Kenny took Alex’s advice and now he knows how to show his care about his family and open conversations with them. Now the family has a much stronger bonding. Kenny treasures this stable job that he likes. Not only can he become self-reliant, he can also repay his family for their support. ‘I will treat them to yum-cha and I can bring home some money. Being able to do these gives me motivation and it is a symbol of my capability of taking responsibility’, said Kenny, satisfied.

E.A.S.Y. Job: Mentorship Scheme for Youth

The Scheme serves young people aged 15 to 29 who have less than three months’ full-time employment experience over the past year. Consisted of a one-week pre-employment induction training and three-month full-time paid training, the Scheme provides support to young people in three aspects by professionals including experienced senior staff members of corporates as mentors to provide guidance at work; life instructors that encourage young people to broaden their horizons and guide them to explore their life plans; and Salvation Army social workers that conduct professional counselling and a series of pre-employment induction training to help boost the young’s employability and confidence. This three-fold collaboration equips the young to achieve sustainable employment and self-reliance.