25 May, 2017
10 : 00
On Friday 19th May, Yew Chung International School (YCIS) students from Years 7 to 9 gathered for their usual morning assembly. Expecting to hear their teachers talk about school life, the attention of most students seemed elsewhere. Some were chatting with friends, others dreaming, and some even finishing last night’s homework!
As guest speaker Mui Thomas, supported by her parents Roger, and Tina, took to the stage, the atmosphere in the room changed. A whisper flew through the audience, who were these people? What did they have to say?
On paper, Mui Thomas sounds like your average 24-year-old girl. She likes shopping, enjoys hanging out with friends and even referees rugby! However, Mui is not average, she was born with a rare skin disorder, Harlequin Ichthyosis which has meant she lives her life with a visible difference.
Mui and her parents claim not to be professional speakers, they haven’t spent years training to speak to a crowd, let alone a collection of students! They are just a family, a family with a story to tell. They are a family created through adoption, a special needs adoption at that. The family now has the full attention of the children.
Mui shares how living with a visible difference has not been easy. There have been many struggles both mentally and physically. People have abused her parents on the street, questioning the sincerity of their love and parenting skills. Mui was asked to get off a public bus, just because of the way she looks – life has not been easy. Her positive nature shines through as she jokes “Not everything has been bad, I’ve met some really cool people, including Kate Moss in her hotel suite! ”
As Mui discusses the struggles she faced with cyber bullies, a real chord is struck with the audience; many students around the world are victims of cyber bullies and in this digital age, disconnecting from the Internet entirely does not feel like an option. Mui talks about the embarrassment and guilt you can feel as a victim of cyber bullying. She explains how even in her own house she no longer felt safe.
Breaking through the social stigma that is mental health, Mui admits that the bullying was so bad; it left her with serious suicidal thoughts. She expresses that over 10 years later, she is still dealing with what was said to her. Mui encourages any victims of cyber bullying to speak to a trusted adult, as she felt lucky that she had such a supportive network at home.
Because of this cyber bullying, Mui and her parents felt it was time to tell their story. Though many reporters and TV stations had approached them, they did not feel ready. After Mui turned 18 they wrote down their story and published their book, in the hope that they could raise awareness on cyber bullying, as well as provide inspiration for families who could be going through similar things.
By educating people about Mui’s difference and what exactly the family has been through, Mui and her parents can answer questions before being asked. They have given a number of talks at schools and events in the hope that they can share their message whilst inspiring others.
As the talk comes to an end, the whole room bursts into thunderous applause. The teachers are amazed at the response of the students, who were listening attentively and when encouraged by Roger, rushed to meet Mui. Students and teachers alike express their gratitude for the Thomas family’s presentation, and how some felt so moved by her story they even shed a tear!
Currently working as a special needs teacher in Wan Chai, Mui shares that she’s just like everyone else.
A major rugby fan, Mui has been involved with her local rugby club. Refusing to sit on the sidelines, she became the first rugby referee in the world with Harlequin Ichthyosis. Like most young people, Mui doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do in the future, but she hopes to become more involved with rugby as it’s something she loves passionately. “I like that out on the rugby pitch, I’m only judged for my refereeing decisions, not for anything else”
With the love and support of her family, and many members of her local Sai Kung community, Mui strives to live life to the fullest. When asked to describe herself in three words Mui laughs “I can only think of one…stubborn”.
To learn more about Mui’s story, please “Like” her Facebook page, ‘The Girl Behind the Face’ - https://www.facebook.com/GirlBehindTheFace/