In the spirit of giving
One of the best ways to instil in our children a spirit of empathy and compassion is by taking them on volunteer opportunities to serve others. Our friends at HandsOn Hong Kong are launching a great campaign to get the whole family involved in some meaningful volunteer projects around town this Christmas. HandsOn provides NGOs, charities and organisations with volunteers to support local initiatives. The site provides a helpful timetable and description of all the volunteer opportunities and needs so prospective volunteers can sign up for a variety of causes based on their own schedule and availability. Make this holiday the time when you gather family and friends to do some good in our city! In this edition of Sassy Mama Supports, we speak with HandsOn Hong Kong’s Head of Communications, Catherine Dannaoui who shares more about the volunteer opportunities this holiday.
What’s the story behind HandsOn and how did it begin?
HandsOn Hong Kong is part of the world’s largest organisation dedicated to volunteer service, Points of Light, with 250 affiliates in countries across the world. The Hong Kong chapter was founded by Shaun Bernier in 2007 soon after she relocated here from the US and realised there were few organisations in the city that engaged Hong Kong citizens on the needs of local charities, and provided a convenient and flexible way for them to volunteer and support them.
After speaking with various charities she also saw their desire to outsource the development of volunteer programs and the recruitment of volunteers, which can be hugely time and resource consuming.
The HandsOn Hong Kong mission is to mobilise and empower our citizens to meet pressing social needs in Hong Kong through volunteer services, with a vision of a caring community that gives its time and talents to support those in need.
What is unique about HandsOn that is different from other NGOs?
What is most unique about HandsOn is that we don’t just support one type of beneficiary group or cause—we support them all! In 2016, we organised over 1,600 volunteer activities serving more than 28,000 beneficiaries including disadvantaged children and youth, isolated elderly, under-resourced families, refugees and asylum seekers, people with disabilities, animals in shelters and ethnic minority students in need. We serve as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for volunteers interested in exploring a range of programs and social causes.
We are essentially the NGO that serves other NGOs. We currently develop volunteer programs for 77 Hong Kong NGOs and recruit volunteers to support these activities year-round. Many of our partners are small, low-resourced NGOs who depend on volunteers in order to run their day-to-day operations—others simply have large-scale volunteer needs on an ongoing basis.
What’s also unique is that our NGO partnerships go well beyond providing a ‘matching’ technology platform. When we begin working with a new NGO, we conduct a full needs assessment to understand how volunteers can support their work. Our program team and volunteers become an extension of the NGO itself.
Can you share a personal story about how volunteering through HandsOn has affected you in a positive way?
Having grown up in Hong Kong I’ve always been well aware of how lucky I am to have always had my needs well met—and that this is not the case for many others who live in our affluent city. An estimated 1.34 million Hong Kong citizens live in poverty and we have the largest income gap between the rich and poor of any country in the developed world. With this degree of need and inequality on our doorstep, each of us has a role to play in giving back to the community.
A volunteer project I was involved in for the Justice Centre Hong Kong years ago really opened my eyes to the transformative experience of community service—for both the volunteer and those served. I jumped at the chance to join the HandsOn Hong Kong team and since then the number of powerful experiences I have had are too many to count. There was one particular outing I will not forget… to witness the tenderness a group of volunteers had in caring for a group of profoundly intellectually and physically disabled teenagers was truly moving. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the job I have and work with the people I do.
Tell us about your Christmas Campaign.
The holiday season is known to most of Hong Kong as a time of celebration and reuniting with family and friends. But for those most in need—including one in five of Hong Kong’s citizens—it can be the most difficult time of year. This is why our team has been focused on developing activities during the holidays that will bring joy, companionship and provisions to those who need it most. Each of these activities have been designed to be family-friendly and engage volunteers across a range of ages, from 5 years old upwards. We believe in instilling a sense of community service in children from early on in their lives. What better way to instil a spirit of giving in your family during a special time of year!
How can our readers get involved on a regular basis and for the Christmas campaign?
Please sign up to support one of holiday volunteer activities listed below—or have a look at our calendar where we host 100+ volunteer activities each month: www.handsonhongkong.org/calendar.
Saturday, 18 November—Beach cleaning and sand sculpting with the families of refugees (Invites English speaking children 5 years and accompanied by one adult)
Saturday, 9 December—Bringing Christmas joy to elderly citizens living at the China Coast Community Center (Invites English speaking children 5 years and accompanied by one adult)
Saturday, 23 December—Holiday party with underprivileged elderly at a Pok Oi Hospital Elderly Center (Invites Cantonese speaking children 5 years and accompanied by one adult)
Thursday, 28 December —Support students with disabilities at a special Christmas lunch (Youths aged 12+ are welcome to volunteer for this activity if accompanied by a guardian)
HandsOn does its work for the Hong Kong community as a free public service so that their non-profit partners can continue to further their mission and support the beneficiaries they serve. If you would like to support them, please consider making a donation at www.simplygiving.com/nonprofit/HOHK. Any kind of donation — large or small — makes a difference!