Founder of biotech firm Theranos charged with fraud and conspiracy 16 Jun Every Sunday evening, prisoners across Hong Kong fall silent, earphones in, hoping to hear their letters read out by the host of Devoted to You.
It was during this time inside that she converted to Christianity and became determined never to commit a crime again. So was released in and now works for NGO The Christian Home of Faith and Grace, which helps in the rehabilitation of female drug users through pastoral care and gospel, as they seek to rebuild their lives.
So says the job makes her happy. She is able to draw on her past experience to serve those currently behind bars. The show is a lifeline to the outside world for many lonely inmates in Hong Kong, who are allowed only two visits a month, each lasting for a maximum of 30 minutes. So says she had little support from her family while she was incarcerated, so writing letters to the radio show and tuning in on Sunday evenings were highlights of her week, and kept her spirits up.
Devoted to You did not set out to be a service for people behind bars when it was launched 17 years ago by Vivian Yip Wan-yi. It was intended to be a programme for anyone to call or email requests to dedicate songs to friends. It touched her and made her realise that her audience included people who often felt isolated and neglected by society.
They should have the right to share their requests, too, she thought. After reading out that first letter on air, Yip received a deluge of correspondence from other inmates and the nature of the radio show changed. Yip says Devoted to You has become a bridge connecting inmates with the outside world.
Relatives of prisoners have told her they have gained a better understanding of the lives of their incarcerated family members and other prisoners through the show. Yip says she now also replies frequently to inmates who write to her, and has even become friends with some of them. She says she can recognise by the tone of letters sent by some inmates that they are angry and frustrated with their lives, but after a few correspondences, they tend to become more positive in their outlook.
Yip admits that she did not have a positive impression of prisoners before she launched her radio show. Hosting Devoted to You changed her perception as she learned more about her pen pals and prison life. While serving her last sentence, So was touched when she was contacted by a pen pal. The married mother who wrote to her was a volunteer for the Hong Kong Christian Kun Sun Association, an organisation dedicated to helping rebuild the lives of prisoners, those in rehabilitation after their release, and their families.
So and her pen pal exchanged letters once a month. So says there is no limit to the number of letters a prisoner can receive, but it takes a long time for mail to get in and out of prison.
An inmate might receive a letter a month after it has been penned. So recalls her pen pal shared a lot of personal details about her family and work, while So told her about her life in the prison. Although So never met her pen pal in person, she says their exchange of letters gave her lots of encouragement as they shared the ups and downs they had each encountered.
It is dedicated to helping inmates and their families cope with incarceration, and works towards rehabilitation and adjustment to society after time has been served, to contribute to a reduction in crime. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old. They come from different backgrounds. One such volunteer is Michelle Lui Kit-hing. She started to exchange letters with inmates in , and now she writes often. At one time she had as many as 30 inmate pen pals.
Lui insists on only sending handwritten letters. Lui says it is difficult for prisoners to find someone to trust on the inside. That means pen pals play a vital role in helping them rehabilitate and reconnect with people on the outside. Lui says her pen friends tell her about the ups and downs in their lives, and they sometimes tell jokes. On rare occasions, Lui has had the opportunity to meet her pen pals in person, such as the graduation ceremonies in jails for prisoners who self-study and gain academic qualifications.
Can Hong Kong break its prison shackles to cut crime? Although being a pen pal offers support to prisoners, volunteers can also gain from the experience. Lui says the activity has enriched her life. She says she has learned that everyone has their own story. Reading the stories of her prisoner friends, she has learned that many commit wrong deeds out of desperation or because they feel they have no other choice. We think you'd also like Thank youYou are on the list.