Christmas is known to bring out the best in people. Jeremy Chan talks to Institute members about how they find happiness in charity work – no matter the time of year – and how giving back does more than help those in need
Ginnie Wu volunteering at Shing Tak Centre of the Society of Boys’ Centres.
Hong Kong people are very giving. According to The Charities Aid Foundation's World Giving Index 2018, the city is one of most charitable economies, coming in 30th place out of the 144 surveyed. The report showed that 44 percent of Hong Kong people had helped a stranger, donated money to a charity, or volunteered time at an organization in the past month.
Ginnie Wu is one of those people. She volunteered at Shing Tak Centre of the Society of Boys’ Centres (SBC) for the first time this month. SBC is an organization of schools which helps boys aged 8-18 with behavioural and emotional problems reintegrate into mainstream schools. The experience, she says, was as enjoyable as it was eye-opening.
Along with her husband, Wu, Deputy Manager of Business Advisory Services at Crowe (HK) CPA Limited, took part in the SBC’s Christmas Cooking Fun Activity during a weekend morning. Before the event she was quite nervous – Wu didn’t know how to cook, so she never imagined she would one day be guiding a group of young students on how to chop, prepare, and serve food. But by carefully observing and learning from the school’s guest chef she was able to guide the children through preparing the dishes step by step. She was pleasantly surprised from the start. "Because of their age, I thought it would be difficult for them, but they were very involved in the activity,” she says. “The older students helped the younger ones with difficult tasks such as chopping ingredients, and some even demonstrated the ability to assign tasks.”
She motivated the young cooks with words of encouragement throughout the session, and recalls one particularly heart-warming moment. “Some of the students were very tired towards the end, but they still managed to make chocolate tarts. They tried their best to prepare and decorate them, and even handed me a piece to try. Not only was it touching – it was also delicious,” she smiles.
That one morning gave Wu a new perspective on children and on the different ways to help others. “Doing charity work has helped me to see and appreciate the different talents in every child – each child has potential,” she says. With more confidence in her cooking and baking skills, Wu eagerly looks forward to joining the next event, and bringing along her colleagues. “Getting involved in charity work is meaningful. We should always keep an open mind and heart.”
“Doing charity work has helped me to see and appreciate the different talents in every child – each child has potential.”
Running with purpose
Samson Lee enjoys exercising with his family, so when he heard about the UNICEF Charity Run in 2010, Lee didn’t just sign himself up – he signed his wife and children up, too.
UNICEF Charity Run is organized by the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF and supported by the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association. Since the first Charity Run in 2006, the event has raised more than HK$120 million to support UNICEF’s “For every child, end AIDS” global campaign in developing countries, aiming to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. This year’s event saw over 13,500 participants.
Since the 2010 run, Lee, Partner at Shinewing (HK) CPA Limited, has taken part in the event seven times. He ran the 10-kilometre race once with colleagues, but enjoys taking part in the 3-km Family Run the most. An avid hiker, runner, basketball player and football enthusiast, he was keen to involve his family in the race. “When my family heard about the charity run, they were very supportive of my involvement, and also felt excited about joining,” he says.
He believes getting his children involved in a charity event at a young age was a good decision. “Parents definitely influence their kids – I want them to exercise and to learn from this activity to also give back,” he says.
During a 3-km run, Lee runs beside one of his sons while his wife runs with the other. The run is not easy for the kids, but they have become sportier since joining, says Lee. “They now enjoy running, and have even started playing basketball and table tennis.”
Lee also volunteered at Playright Children’s Play Association, an organization which seeks to enrich children’s lives through quality play. The charity organization designs games, provides toys and invites children with special needs to learn through having fun. “I got to meet these children. You feel that they are eager to take part in fun activities and when they are given the chance, you see that they are genuinely happy,” he says. “I loved meeting the kids, and seeing them enjoy themselves was important to me.”
Lee plans to join Playright again and keep running the UNICEF Charity Run with his family in the coming years. “You feel great when you are part of these events – we need people to get involved in more charity functions and activities. Charities help people in need and help society as a whole,” he says. “When you help people, you also help yourself.”
“Parents definitely influence their kids – I want them to exercise and to learn from this activity to also give back.”
Like father like sons
For Raymond Cheng, charity has always been a part of life. Cheng, Chairman of HLB Hodgson Impey Cheng Limited, first got involved with charity work while in boarding school in the United Kingdom, where he volunteered to teach disabled children how to read. After returning to Hong Kong in 1996, he took up regular volunteering and still continues to help at charity organizations including Po Leung Kuk, St. James’ Settlement and rehabilitation service organization SAHK, where he interacts and reads with disadvantaged kids, many of whom are orphans. He has also involved his two sons, now teenagers, with these charities since they were nine. Helping charities along with his kids, Cheng says, is deeply rewarding.
“The kids sat on the floor and used individual pieces of wood as a desk.”
During a work trip to the Mainland, he got involved with another charity organization to rebuild a school in Liu Wang (六王鎮), a village near the city of Yulin in the southern region of Guangxi, which had been affected by flooding following heavy rainfall in June 2010. “After the flood, the students were studying in an abandoned factory,” he recalls. “The kids sat on the floor and used individual pieces of wood as a desk. It was horrible.”
Cheng donated to the local charity organization, helping it to start rebuilding the school (龍頭小學). “They built the school from the foundations up, concrete, plumbing and stocking of tables and chairs,” he says.
He brought his children along on a separate visit, with school supplies in hand. “I bought every kid a goody bag with supplies such as stationery, milk and a water bottle too.” Construction began in December 2010 and finished in October 2011, and Cheng still regularly visits the school. “The school didn’t believe people would visit and help them, and were truly thankful.” Cheng was most surprised about the impact the experience had on his kids after they returned home. “It changed the way they saw things, and they are grateful with their lives in Hong Kong,” he says.
Cheng is also currently raising funds for another charity organization to purchase and build large water tanks in Guangxi, known as Dashi (廣西大石山區). “There were outbreaks of disease due to poor hygiene and dirty water,” he says. “One water tank is able to supply clean water to an entire village.” He has visited the areas and met with locals to understand how the water tanks have to be put in place. “It’s not a one-off,” he adds. “They have to be routinely cleaned, maintained, and refilled with clean water, and the organization has a team of people who regularly inspect the water tanks.” With the project beginning in October, the water tanks are currently being built, and Cheng looks forward to his next visit in early 2019.
Cheng recommends other CPAs to get involved with charities, and to bring their children along. “Helping in charities changed my children’s perspectives – they are more willing to help people now, and are less selfish too,” he says. “A lot of people are in need, and we could all take some time to help out.”
Being an inspiration
Like many students in Hong Kong, Carmen Lo faced numerous challenges and pressure in her school days. She was not too confident in her English writing skills, and was unsure of what to study in university. In a way, she wished she had a mentor.
Three years ago, Lo started hosting talks at a wide variety of organizations and institutions. She is currently a member of the Institute’s Young Members Committee as well as Convenor of its Prospective and New Members subgroup. She speaks at secondary schools and organizations such as School-Company-Parent Programmes under the Education Bureau and Young Entrepreneurs Development Council. She is also a mentor for the Business School of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she shares life experiences with students who wish to work in the business and financial sector.
“Some students aren’t outgoing enough, and they often bottle up their feelings.”
“The youth need some sort of guidance,” says Lo, an Onsite Examiner at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority's Credit Risk Division. “They also face parental, social and peer pressure.” Having a mentor, Lo says, helps students to open up and overcome difficulties in life. “Some students aren’t outgoing enough, and they often bottle up their feelings.”
Volunteering on the weekends or after work, she gives advice to mainly secondary and university students. “Different teenagers have different concerns,” she says. For junior students, a common problem is a lack of confidence in speaking English, so Lo shares how she overcame that by writing more English letters to a friend when she was a Form Two student. Lo says that a recurring challenge secondary school students face is deciding what to study in university. With them, she speaks on how she decided on her study stream and university major.
“For example, I would share how I chose to transfer from one major to another, and the diversified work exposures thereafter,” she explains. “I wanted to highlight that one’s major might not necessarily determine what one will be doing as a career in the future,” Lo says. “I also advise them to choose a major that they love, as doing so would motivate them even more,” she adds.
Helping Hong Kong’s youth keeps Lo happy. “I’m quite busy with my job, but I always spend some time to do what I love doing – helping the students,” she says, adding how they also inspire her. “Since they are still young, they think differently and are creative, so being with them has helped me see things from a different angle. I also feel younger when I speak with them,” she laughs. She is delighted whenever students tell her how much of an impact she has made in their attitude and lives after each session.“When I see the students or members of the audience bring something back home, I feel very satisfied.”
Through the “Rich Kid, Poor Kid” programme, the Institute’s Accountant Ambassadors have held over 750 seminars on money management for more than 130,000 students in 450 primary and secondary schools around Hong Kong since 2005. The Institute’s “CPA for NGOs” programme also pairs Accountant Ambassadors with non-governmental organizations to offer professional advice on accounting, governance and risk management.