In recent years, flag selling has become a very popular way for organisations which serve the community to raise funds.
It happens to be quite effective, in terms of the amount of funds raised and therefore you could find charity flag-sellers throughout Hong Kong almost every Saturday morning. I have noticed a trend developing, that is, the increasing use of elderly people. They are now being asked to participate in flag selling, a role once overwhelmingly carried out by junior secondary school students.
It is good for old people to take part in community services. It shows that people can still vigorously be involved in society regardless of their age. However, I retain some reservations when it comes to their participation in flag selling.
I am always worried that some of them might be deceived or robbed by unscrupulous men pretending to be generous benefactors.
It seems that this unfortunate thing does happen almost every year.
Besides, asking elderly people to stand outside for several hours, especially during our hot and humid summer, is quite inhumane.
Who is going to bear the responsibility if one elderly participant suffers heat stroke during a flag-selling day? My experience on Saturday, June 7, shows that old folk find it difficult to deal with unexpected problems.
I was on my way to work, when an old lady who was near Wan Chai MTR Station, asked me to buy a flag. I intended to put a $10 coin into the bag which she was carrying. All of a sudden, I realised that the hole for inserting coins had somehow got blocked by other coins inserted earlier.
I tried several times to push those coins down into the bag, but I failed.
I was in a hurry at that time and could not help her any further. Instead, I told her to ask someone else to help her. I do not know what eventually happened, but the expression on her face as I left was one of helplessness.
The incident made me ask myself if elderly people were really suited to charity flag selling.
I am not saying that old people should be excluded totally from the activity of flag selling. This would be completely unacceptable However, I wonder if those organisations which mobilise the elderly for flag selling could try and think of ways to protect these old folk from deception and ensure that they were not kept out in the sun for too long. Finally, they should be thoroughly briefed before they go out on a Saturday morning, so they are able to cope with emergencies.
SEBASTIAN FUNG CHO-KIN Kornhill