Let's live up to our proud record on giving

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2011, 12:00am

Hong Kong has a well-deserved reputation for charitable giving, but its generosity extends far beyond handouts to the needy. The Japanese rugby team at the Hong Kong Sevens found that out at the weekend, being showered with goodwill and heartfelt sympathy by the crowds in the packed stands. Whenever disaster strikes what is close to us, there is an outpouring of caring quickly followed by sharing. Relief aid and expertise is as swiftly offered as donations.

We have a right to be proud of our charitable response to the twin tragedies of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. How many millions of dollars that will eventually amount to is not yet clear as there has been no let-up to the generosity since nature's fury struck on March 11. Charities like World Vision and the Red Cross have each raised tens of millions, while restaurants and coffee shops continue to give a proportion of takings to various funds. A concert of local celebrities and Japanese and Korean stars in Victoria Park on Friday night is likely to substantially raise contributions.

Japan holds a special place in our hearts, being a popular holiday and shopping destination and the source of entertainment and fashion. The outpouring of goodwill was, in the circumstances, a given. We do not need prompting whenever natural disaster hits the mainland; the rush to help the victims of the Sichuan quake in 2008 plainly showed that. But we are caring to a fault beyond our neighbourhood, having given more per person to those affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 than elsewhere in the world.

Hong Kong was ranked 18th of 153 globally and highest in East Asia by Britain's Charitable Aid Foundation in its 2010 World Giving index. It determined 70 per cent of us give to charity, 13 per cent volunteer time for organisations and half of us have helped a stranger in the past month. Such details gloss over the real nature of our generosity; Japanese people, as they face up to adversity, are now finding out exactly what that entails. It is a record we have set a high bar on and have to ensure we live up to as a model for others to follow - no matter where in the world disaster strikes.