“What can I do to help?”
You have probably asked yourself this question repeatedly during the last few months of the pandemic. The forest of need is daunting, and it is difficult to discern which tree most urgently needs water. Where to sow your finances and effort depends on individual preference, but here are a few signposts for you to consider if you’d like to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts. Some ideas you may have already thought of, others may make you think.
You’ll also notice diverse opportunities, ranging from charities to corporates. There is a growing number of communities adversely affected and the immense need for support in almost every sector. The emphasis is all these ideas are actionable today in your quest to answer, “What can I do to help?”
Charity Begins At Home
Often overlooked despite living and working in our own homes are Hong Kong’s 300,000-strong foreign domestic workers. You may not have realised that your helper is an important (if not the only) source of income for his or her family. In the case of the Philippines, where most of Hong Kong’s domestic workers come from, remittances from abroad account for almost 10% of the country’s GDP. However, due to rising unemployment caused in part by the pandemic, remittances are expected to shrink by 2.5% in 2020. Coupled with the recent devastation caused by Typhoon Vongfong – the first typhoon of the monsoon season – there will be more damaging news to come. If you have a domestic worker taking care of your family, please have a frank conversation about his or her needs. After all, charity begins at home.
NGOs that support foreign domestic workers and have volunteers opportunities include Uplifters and Enrich, which provide financial and empowerment education, HELP for Domestic Workers which gives free advice on employment and human rights issue, and Pathfinders that helps vulnerable migrant mothers and their children. Uplifters is currently running a Facebook live series to address some of the common problems helpers are facing because of the pandemic.
Charity Aggregating Platforms
These websites offer directories of organisations that would benefit from your support, providing insight to communities facing hardship and the different charities responding to their needs.
Asian Charity Services (ACS) just launched a website this week to connect NGOs with potential funders (of any size). The project is called Support our Champions and it is Hong Kong’s first online platform to list local charities and their funding needs. ACS has launched with over 50 organisations on the website, with plans for more NGOs to join. If you would like to make a donation (whether monetary or in-kind) but are not sure to whom, this site should be your first port of call.
With Asia Miles, members can redeem Miles in aid of charities. While the Asia Miles Charity Redemption programme has been in effect since 2016, it has recently launched a specific COVID-19 category featuring the relief efforts of eight charities at the forefront. The new programme has been well received, accepting over 750 redemptions in just the first two weeks. Members have until August to redeem Miles for COVID-19 Relief charity packages.
Since 2007, HandsOn Hong Kong has offered diverse and insightful volunteer opportunities to serve over 200 local NGOs. In response to COVID-19, it highlights service programmes that support a particularly vulnerable group: the elderly. Since February, HOH has run over 700 COVID-19 relief programmes, including phone calls to the elderly, distributed tens of thousands of food and hygiene items to local charities and is currently delivering more than 3,000 care packages to low-income households.
The most commonly requested in-kind donations are technology devices, face masks and supermarket vouchers. The list of NGOs below is not exhaustive but provides examples of organisations that have voiced their needs.
The Women’s Foundation is asking for donations of devices as part of their #techforgoodinitiative. Their goal, as part of their COVID-19 relief effort, is to redistribute 500 second-hand portable devices (such as laptops or tablets) to underprivileged families to enable children to access online schooling.
Giving Bread (an NGO dedicated to food redistribution) does not accept financial donations. However, they gratefully accept donations of face masks and supermarket vouchers, to be included in food packages delivered directly to elderly homes. Giving Bread has distributed food packs six days a week for the last ten years. Food Angel and Enrich HK also request face mask donations.
Supermarket vouchers are especially sought after by NGOs serving marginalised communities in Hong Kong. Inner City Ministries works among the ethnic minority community in Yau Ma Tei and Branches of Hope works for justice and equal rights for refugees and asylum seekers.
Naturally, medical staff and COVID-19 patients have been the beneficiaries of the first wave of community support and relief efforts. But a combination of stay-at-home measures, reduced consumer spending and near non-existent tourist arrivals have severely crippled the hospitality and entertainment sectors. The second wave of support now includes individuals from these industries who are facing unemployment or precarious employment. But how do you support hospitality and entertainment when you are mostly staying at home to flatten the curve?
Eat, Drink And Be Merry (Yet Helpful)
While Deliveroo’s volumes in Q1 2020 have doubled from Q4 2019, F&B outlets have suffered significant losses. Recognising a rising tide lifts all boats, Deliveroo reduced commission rates for F&B outlets and will introduce an option on their app for tips to go directly to a charity organisation (to be announced soon). Uber Eats has pledged to donate 44,000 free meals to healthcare professionals and to offer 10,000 free rides to NGOs in Hong Kong. The Upper House offers a Café Gray Deluxe At Home delivery service and for an additional $50 the hotel will donate a food bag to Foodlink. This initiative will continue until September. In addition to dining offers, for every hotel room booked during this pandemic, The Upper House has committed to donate $60 to Soap Cycling for distribution of hygiene kits to frontline cleaners and communities.
Black Sheep Restaurants has launched an initiative called Feast for Our Family. Meal costs are absorbed by the company and proceeds will support team members who need it most – including cleaners, dishwashers and back waiters. Since launching in April, Feast for Our Family has raised over $250,000 for at-risk and lower-waged staff. In June, this initiative will be held at one of their restaurants, Ho Lee Fook, located on Elgin Street in Central, Hong Kong.
The DiVino Group is offering $10 for every pizza ordered (delivery or dine-in) at any of its restaurants. The money raised will be sent to the Crema Hospital which is at the epicentre of the outbreak in Italy.
Pay It Forward
#saveHKFnB is an alliance of 600 restaurants representing 10,000 employees, a proportion of which are independent outlets vulnerable to shuttering their business. In an attempt to strengthen the cash flow for restaurants, the alliance launched a “2020 Wipeout” e-Voucher system whereby diners can pre-purchase discount vouchers to be used at a later date. Given the popularity of this programme, the deadline for purchasing vouchers is extended until Sunday, 7 June.
RADArt4Aid is a dedicated global auction to benefit multiple organisations focused on COVID-19 relief efforts. Award-winning American photographer Mark Seliger, known for iconic portraits of politicians, musicians, actors, and celebrities featured on the covers of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, will contribute limited-edition prints from his own archives to a special philanthropic auction at Christie’s. Auction bidding opened on Thursday, 28 May and will run till Friday, 12 June.
Soho House Hong Kong will host an exhibition in partnership with Xoloplastics to create art and meet other talents within the community. Xoloplastics, a non-profit project, has created an emergency relief programme to support vulnerable families in Mexico affected by COVID-19. Exhibition dates are Monday, 20 to Wednesday, 22 July. Details can be found here.
There are lots of people in need right now, but fortunately also lots of ways you and your family can support communities throughout Hong Kong and the wider region. It can start with something as simple as ordering a meal, donating your old smartphone or starting a conversation with your family and friends about how you can help. Don’t wait! Get involved and make a difference today.