HK$110m raised over two decades

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2007, 12:00am

Year after year, Operation Santa Claus confirms Hongkongers have big hearts

Celine Sun looks back on 20 years of fund-raising by Operation Santa Claus and finds the charity appeal has taken some giant strides

Twenty years ago, Operation Santa Claus was launched with HK$100,000 raised in its initial effort to help the city's needy.

The donors and organisers back then could barely imagine that their contribution would be part of more than HK$110 million in donations raised by the campaign in two decades.

Jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, the annual charity drive has sponsored almost 80 charities during this period to run projects to help sick children, the disabled, disadvantaged families, the elderly and many others in need, locally and overseas.

The fund-raising campaign has also become an annual fixture for many corporations, schools and individual donors willing to use their actions to exemplify the Christmas spirit of giving and sharing with those who are less fortunate.

Operation Santa Claus has evolved from a children-focused campaign into a sophisticated community money-raiser responding to the weakest sectors of society.

The annual total raised a record HK$16 million last year. This year, more than HK$12 million has been received so far.

'The growing contributions to Operation Santa Claus over the past two decades have shown that the people of Hong Kong have become ever more generous in donating to charitable causes,' Post editor C.K. Lau said.

Tracing the history of Operation Santa Claus, the charity appeal has always been closely tied with the development of Hong Kong, sharing its pain and pride, tears and laughter.

In 1996, a hill fire in Pat Sin Leng killed three students and two teachers from Fung Yiu King Memorial Secondary School and injured another 13, shocking the city.

The tragedy spurred Operation Santa Claus to donate its annual contribution to the burns unit of Prince of Wales Hospital where the injured students were treated.

More than HK$4 million was raised for the hospital to buy the latest equipment.

The year 2003 was another unforgettable one for Hong Kong, with the Sars outbreak dealing a serious blow to the city and claiming many lives. Yet it is also a moment when everyone in society was connected in fighting the disaster.

From that year, Operation Santa Claus decided to increase the number of beneficiaries from one or two to 12 to cover a wider range of charities.

More space in the Post and airtime on RTHK were also devoted to Operation Santa Claus stories.

The year's campaign was a success with more than HK$6 million raised, double the amount of previous years.

In December 2004, Hongkongers showed their generosity after the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 225,000 people, including 44 Hong Kong residents.

Responding to the disaster, Operation Santa Claus, in addition to its HK$7.27 million donation to the 12 charities for the year, collected another HK$9.58 million for the United Nations Children's Fund to help children affected in the region.

This year, Operation Santa Claus continued its approach of last year in sponsoring 18 beneficiaries in five categories.

Meanwhile, for the first time, it invited donors and the Council for Social Service to sit on the selection committee, as part of an evolutionary effort to make the campaign more transparent.

Bryan Curtis, head of RTHK Radio 3, who has been involved in the campaign for many years, said the co-operation between the Post and RTHK had proved to be successful and effective over the years.

'The South China Morning Post and RTHK are among the most trusted media organisations in Hong Kong; our stories make giving to charity 'real', putting a face and a voice to various needs in the community that are often beneath the surface,' he said.

Operation Santa Claus had become a well known brand in Hong Kong, recognisable to people as a trusted conduit for charity, he said.

Looking forward, the charity drive is expected to continue growing as long as Hongkongers remain charity-minded.