Help in kind also makes a difference

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2006, 12:00am

Cash gets the attention but other donations make impact

Throughout Operation Santa Claus, the emphasis tends to be on money to facilitate the charities' projects and also awareness about those beneficiaries, the work they do and the people they help. But there are also many in-kind donations that occur throughout the campaign.

Last year one of the charities benefiting from the campaign was St James' Settlement People's Food Bank, which provides food for a few weeks for people who find themselves in the poverty gap, helping tide them over until they can fund themselves or receive funding from the government.

The Harbour Plaza Resort City hotel in Tin Shui Wai last year helped boost a Christmas tree made out of cans that resulted in more than 40,000 cans being collected for the food bank, by asking guests to contribute. The cans were placed under the hotel's Christmas tree and then added to those collected by Operation Santa Claus.

This year canned food started to appear under the hotel's Christmas tree even though it wasn't initially part of the fund-raising campaign. The hotel was raising funds this year by selling cookies, but the canned food kept appearing anyway, said manager Stephen Chu.

While South China Morning Post readers and listeners to RTHK, which co-organise Operation Santa Claus, can see or hear each day how the cash total is rising, there are also plenty of in-kind donations made last month and this month.

The hotel decided to keep the food collection going and donated it to Christian Action, one of this year's 27 beneficiaries, which provides assistance to jobless people, the underprivileged among ethnic minorities, domestic helpers and asylum seekers. 'Christian Action said sure, we'll come and collect it and then when they saw all the food under the tree they realised they would have to come back with a truck,' said Mr Chu.

Kingston International School also helped Christian Action by donating daily necessities such as toothpaste, washing liquid and other items.

School principal Scott Jackson decided that his students, who come from fairly privileged backgrounds, would find fund-raising too easy if they just handed over money or got their parents to write a cheque.

So he challenged four students to collect goods from 170 families.

'We wanted to find an organisation that needed essential items rather than money,' he said. 'This made it more meaningful. They had to think about the essential items that people need when they first come to Hong Kong.'

Sharmila Gurung, Christian Action's manager at the Chungking Mansions Service Centre, said this 'means a lot to our children who are in need of basic necessities'.