William Tsang

Nature and play to love life again: wonderful therapeutic work in Hong Kong with children, youth and older adults (together)

William Tsang was born and raised in the feverish urban world of Hong Kong. A social worker for over 20 years, he is alarmed by the statistics of children and young people who lose their lives voluntarily. The same nature that saved him in a black period of his life, is the connection he now offers to hundreds of people through a place of comfort in nature, “because they are being pushed to get out of their comfort zone all the time”.

William “mixes” children and youth with older adults on his walks in nature connection activities and games. Previously trained in Forest Bathing, it was with FTHub in Hong Kong that he experienced his first walk in the flesh.

“The first time I went hiking was when I was 16 years old, and then I fully loved it and kept on hiking. I keep enjoying seeing the animals by myself. I like insects very much, and snakes. When I was about 30 years old, I got a big, deep fall from my life. I got unemployed for about two years, I had no money, a low life direction, and I got fully lost. I also had lots of time to go hiking. So after a while I feel like I recovered by nature. And I slowly came back to my normal life. 

“At the same time I noticed that in Hong Kong, there are lots of young people lost by suicide, even 8 years-old, they think they have no hope. Right now, in just two months, there are about 18 cases of young people killing themselves. I felt I was very lucky because I could recover thanks to nature, and thanks to lots of people supporting me. 

Did I have any depression or what? I don’t know. But luckily, I could recover. But young people, they have no supervisors, they have no mentors to support them. Their parents, their teachers keep forcing them to study, to push them to be successful, and then they just stop their life.

“So I think, is it possible if I could create some nature activity with the senses, and then also the quiet time for them to stop for a while, settle for a while, and then recover, and to be tasting their happiness?”

“And so that’s why I started this job of being a kind of nature guy. I’m a registered social worker. In Hong Kong, the role of the social worker is quite significant. My previous nature of the job is like adventure training. I keep leading the hiking tour and then the high rock challenge to jump from the top of the hill. But after 20 years experience, I don’t think it was helpful or supportive for the kids.

“So I thought about forest bathing, this other kind of connection with nature to better support these kinds of cases. I think I don’t want them to break through the comfort zone again and again because they are never in the comfort zone. They’re always asked to push from their comfort zone.

“So I see if there’s any time for them to stay in a comfort zone, to relax and to learn inside the comfort zone. This is my way”.

“In 2017 in Hong Kong, we did not have any information about Forest Bathing, but I went to the old bookstore shop to read some Chinese books about Shinrin Yoku, one written about 30 years ago. So I knew that is what I was looking for. Then I found my way to another organization and became a Nature Therapy Guide, and tried to learn. 

“After some time I found the professional training in FTHub. My service is not just about the marketing of Shinrin Yoku for general people to connect with nature. I work with people in need, like mentally drained or with a psychological situation or with some hopeless feeling to their life.

“And I have seen how people change or how people start feeling nature. I combine and integrate play together with later healing. In Hong Kong, I start with some leisure play exercises with people of different backgrounds. For example, I teach one group of primary school students to lead leisurely games and to lead the elderly with age like 80 something.

“So they don’t think too much. They play hide and seek together with the elderly on one urban playground, one grassland. The elderly love it. They all keep breathing deeply, they enjoy very much under the sun in the urban nature”.

“I have a very remarkable memory of an 8 year-old, who had to lead an 88 year-old to play hide and seek. And then I asked ‘- Grandma, what was the last time you played? – It’s like 80 years ago’. So it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful to see them being them, being together.

“Yesterday I led a group of the caretakers and their group of children. They are in their thirties, with mental disabilities, and they enjoyed the three hours, from the traveling to the focus on the different senses in nature. They said ‘finally I got some me-time, I feel freedom, and I can see the beauty of my life‘. Something like this. So I am very happy about that.

“I approached Forest Bathing with another organization but never experienced a real forest bathing session until my training in Hong Kong with FTHub. So that was my first time to really try the Forest Bathing experience. I really feel like, no matter what I do, there’s nothing right or wrong. And I enjoy it.

My hope is to build a movement with nature and play for therapeutic backgrounds, to push the Chinese population to this. I think there’s a necessity for Chinese people, not only in mainland China. Well now I have this big event which is called Hong Kong Barefoot Day. So we have lots of people of different backgrounds going barefoot in urban playgrounds and stepping on the grassland. Like about a few hundred people. It is amazing”.

 

Ph: Courtesy William Tsang

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