Announcing the birth of S4S
They say that nothing succeeds like the appearance of success, so meet the newest addition to Hong Kong’s grassroots charities: Suits for Success Junior, an offspring of Suits for Success, but run entirely by Hong Kong youngsters for Hong Kong youngsters in need.
Suits for Success (S4S) started as a charitable initiative under the networking association Women in Finance Asia (WiFA). It was intended to be WiFA’s tribute to International Women’s Day, and like the values the association imbues in all of the events that it runs, this was to be something a bit different. Its goal is to have a community impact and focus on the empowerment of women (and men, but mostly women). Initially it was a small professional clothing collection drive to help young underprivileged jobseekers with office wear for internships and job interviews. The premise was very simple. They would gather gently used professional clothing which could be repurposed and distributed to underprivileged young people in Hong Kong who were looking to enter the workplace.
The first drive, in 2014, collected 300kgs of donated clothing from two corporate partners and a number of participating Pure Fitness and Yoga locations, and benefitted one beneficiary NGO, Project Share. Over the years, the momentum of support and interest in this cause has caused the cache of donated items to multiply 10 times. In 2017, the initiative collected over 3000kg from 50 corporate partners and engaged hundreds of eager volunteers, benefitting hundreds of young people in addition to people from other marginalised and underserved parts of Hong Kong society.
And it keeps on growing.
The real beauty of being involved in an initiative like this is in looking back at how organically it has grown. Just ask Kate Reid, S4S co-founder, what it was like four years ago, running around in a single van picking up donations. “We have gone into each year with the expectation that we’ll just take what we can get, and each year we think that this is going to be the one where we bottom out on people’s interest in donating to us. But you just need to have seen the mountain of clothing and shoes, bags and other work-appropriate accessories that came through our donation channels in 2017 to know that there is no end to Hong Kong people’s generosity. Even this year, when we thought the concept couldn’t get any bigger, what we are finding out is that people’s enthusiasm and eagerness to participate and help knows no boundaries.”
Take for instance, the newest addition to the Suits for Success family, Suits for Success Junior, or “S4SJ” as we call it.
Suits for Success Junior
Founded by high school junior, Siddharth Sengupta, an international school student and a Life Scout with the Boy Scouts of America, the S4SJ programme focuses on Hong Kong Schools and targets beneficiaries of a younger age bracket than the main clothing drive. It is already playing a valuable role in launching careers of young people in Hong Kong.
Sid approached the Suits for Success team in early 2017 with his idea and he ran the clothing drive from scratch with his school. This first collection yielded 260kgs of quality clothing which was distributed across the Suits for Success and wider beneficiary network in the summer.
Sid, age 16, spearheaded the initiative with friends from the Scouts, setting aside afternoons to prepare and market the event, collect, refurbish, wash, and iron the clothing. In addition, he communicated with the Suits team, the NGOs and attended events to redistribute the clothing to his new, less privileged friends. He developed some great skills through being involved in Suits for Success Junior and his report showed a wonderful passion for the initiative and the people he met along the way while gaining an understanding of the lives of less privileged people here in our city.
More than one hundred young people in Hong Kong benefitted from smart clothing to use for internships, education interviews or simply to lift their spirits while living in challenging environments.
How it works
The programme is now growing. It’s no longer just about one school. With the enthusiastic volunteer power of Hong Kong high school students, Sid leads S4S Junior by guiding school leaders to organise the campaigns in their respective schools. These young leaders work with Sid to run the clothing drives from beginning to end: seeking necessary permissions from their school, identifying a collection period, distributing marketing materials, holding the collection, arranging volunteers to assist with the sorting, and finally distributing clothing to the beneficiaries.
Getting involved in running a school collection offers a huge opportunity for students. The benefits of the S4SJ programme are endless, but mostly focus on building entrepreneurial skills at a young age, including project management skills and teamwork. For those involved in running a school collection, the programme also creates a sense of social impact and pride from doing something purposeful for other people.
“Working with suits for success was a very fulfilling experience. Collecting the clothes was hard work, but meeting the people receiving the clothes made it worth it. This is an experience I will forever cherish, and I hope to be more involved with suits for success in the future,” said Sid, who helped run Suits for Success Junior again in March 2018.
If you’d like to help Suits for Success, you can donate through Pure Fitness and Pure Yoga locations all over Hong Kong. There are also over 56 corporate partners who are providing onsite collection points for their employees. Details of these can be found on its website at www.suitsforsuccesshk.org. Items suitable for donation include gently used, small and/or medium-sized business appropriate clothing and shoes for men and women; including jackets, shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, women’s handbags, men’s ties and cufflinks, etc. Please avoid unclean or stained clothing, larger-sized attire, and items that are not business appropriate.
As our charity grows we need volunteers to help with sorting and distribution, but we also need any style-queens, marketing pros, and people with experience in education and training. Contact us through our website or through social media.