Fund to match needy to those that can help

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 October, 2010, 12:00am


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There are plenty of people in the city willing and able to help poor families and plenty of families who would welcome such help; all they need is a matchmaker to bring them together.

That is the thinking behind a fund being set up with the aim of raising HK$25 million and recruiting 10,000 mentors for disadvantaged children.

Youth Foundation president Dr Philemon Choi Yuen-wan, the fund's co-founder, said he noticed the need to match the needy with those able to help two years ago when helping to set up the government's pilot Child Development Fund.

Under that plan families able to save HK$200 a month over two years received a matching amount from a non-governmental organisation and a further HK$3,000 from the government - a total of HK$12,600 - while mentors were appointed to help each child involved. Seven NGOs took part, serving 750 people.

'But the seven NGOs can't do all the work,' Choi said. 'And there are many smaller groups which have direct contact with the grass roots but are not well-backed financially.'

This is where the matching fund will play middleman, raising funds and recruiting mentors, allocating them to the NGOs that need them.

Choi said 1.28 million Hongkongers were estimated to live below the poverty line, including 200,000 children and teenagers, while in 13 per cent of households, the education level and salary of children was lower than that of their parents.

'In the 1970s, people could find a job graduating from secondary Form Three... Now many can only find part-time jobs after they finish secondary education,' Choi said.

Education and career training had become more important in the age of the knowledge-based society.

Choi said that while the government had a role to play, bureaucrats were not active enough in reaching out to the donors and charities.

'The government cannot solve all the problems,' Choi said. 'The business sector should be involved... But poverty is not a problem that can be dealt with by one Bill Gates or any individual. I would like to encourage participation of ordinary citizens.'