Volunteers enter into the spirit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 December, 2010, 12:00am

Clapping to the musical beat, marvelling at magic tricks, having their blood pressure and hearing tested and getting a haircut, 200 disadvantaged people savoured each moment at this month's launch of the second round of the 'Share-to-Care Volunteer Campaign', organised by volunteers from the corporate and non-profit world and supported by HSBC.

Now in its second year, the initiative was launched last year by the banking giant and the Agency for Volunteer Service, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that promotes volunteering in Hong Kong. As part of the initiative, volunteers from HSBC, its clients, NGOs and schools get themselves involved in various social services.

Under the theme 'Serve with Creativity', the second-round campaign, which will run to the end of March, encourages participants to develop projects. An example is a volunteer team formed by HSBC employees and South Asian groups to help women and children from a South Asian background to read and write Chinese.

About 20,000 volunteers will take part in festive celebrations, outings and workshops put together for people in need, including the elderly, poor households, people with disability, the mentally handicapped and ethnic minorities. Volunteers will also distribute 'caring packs' - gift packages containing snacks, water bottles, stationery and towels. More than 35,000 individuals are expected to benefit from the initiative.

'The campaign has a strong appeal to our employees,' says Teresa Au, head of corporate sustainability at HSBC for Asia-Pacific. 'Volunteers' interaction with those in need of help provides an opportunity to reflect.'

According to Au, HSBC's annual Global People Survey shows that employees who have participated in corporate sustainability activities or community services are more engaged and satisfied at work, and display a stronger sense of belonging.

'They can see that their contribution is not just limited to the employer and to work, but [that it benefits] the community as well,' she adds.

To encourage participation from partner companies and NGOs, the bank assigns an employee to the programme for every volunteer sent by these organisations. It also matches every 'caring pack' pledged by partner groups. Members of the public can visit any China Resources Vanguard Supermarket outlet and buy gift packs that the volunteers will hand to beneficiaries.

In the initiative's first round, about 800 HSBC volunteers and their families, and over 19,000 volunteers from other organisations distributed 'caring packs' to more than 30,000 recipients.

Tammy Ma, a volunteer from HSBC, finds the experience 'wonderful and rewarding'. 'Initially, I had worried about the differences in age and [possible difficulties] in conversation,' Ma says. 'But the elderly [people] had many interesting stories to tell, and the conversations eventually flowed freely. Some of them even gave us tips [to stay healthy].'

Helping the needy

The December 5 launch saw volunteers giving 'caring packs' to more than 600 poor households

They also organised a Sai Kung Country Park tour for the mentally handicapped