Playgroup given cold shoulder by charities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 1996, 12:00am

I READ with envy that Operation Santa Claus raised money for Sowers Action for rebuilding 35 schools in China in need of repairs.

For the past few years, I have been involved in fund raising for Leapfrog Playgroup, which is an education charity under the auspices of the Hong Kong Preschool Playgroups Association.

Leapfrog was started almost four years ago by myself and four other mothers who were disappointed at the lack of preschool facilities in the Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay area and at the same time disgusted at the way preschools were not (and still are not) under the control of the Education Department. As such, if no private organisations run any preschool facilities, then children in that area will simply be denied the opportunity of preschool education.

We started looking for permanent premises from day one and after almost a year, we identified a potential site, which was a disused school in Sai Kung.

It took months to persuade six village elders as well as the Chairman of the Sai Kung Rural Committee to sign letters supporting our project, so that we could apply to the Lands Department for a lease.

Having done this, it took more than a year to finally get the lease.

We then tried to raise funds to rebuild/refurbish the school. We tried all major charities and many large companies in Hong Kong and after another 18 months, our last hope has just been dashed when our application to a major charity was rejected without explanation.

Meanwhile, our volunteers worked hard to raise money from bake sales at school fairs, clown shows, paint and play sessions, etc, as well as some small private donations, all amounting to a rather amazing sum of $130,000, considering how small the amounts were for individual items.

The bottom line is that while the entire rebuilding project will take over $900,000, we desperately need around $400,000 to do partial rebuilding (and partial opening) which means we are short of $270,000.

The Social Welfare Department has been very helpful and tolerant of us operating from our temporary premises, which is a room with a leaking roof within the Sai Kung Community Centre, which we do not have exclusive use of. This means we can only have limited activities as we have to clear away all equipment after each session. But we really can't face another wet season in the summer when the children have to sit around a circle at singing time with a couple of buckets in the middle.

When fully operational, we expect to benefit children from over 100 families in the area, both English and Chinese speaking.

We are convinced that our failure to raise the necessary funds is because we are not a charity catering for the handicapped, deaf, blind or dying, therefore we evoke little sympathy from potential donors. (Having said that, our constitution does allow us to take up to 10 per cent of 'special needs' children).

Nevertheless, if the Hong Kong Government cannot provide our children with preschool education locally, and because of the high cost of suitable premises, privately run facilities are not economically viable and hence virtually non-existent, then someone has to try and change that situation for the residents of Sai Kung and Clearwater Bay.

Please, readers, let that someone be you. I can be contacted on tel 2328 2269, or fax 2328 2585.

SOPHIE FIRMIN New Territories