Turn over a leaf in the new year by lending a hand at a local charity

Begin the new year right, by volunteering to help a charity, writes Kylie Knott

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 9:46pm

Vision First

Mission Vision First assists refugees in Hong Kong regardless of their religion, race, nationality or politics. It also provides support for those seeking sanctuary from persecution and gives them a chance to live with dignity in a safe environment.

Hands on Caroline Fletcher says she has gained much from her volunteer work with Vision First's women's group. "It's such a contrast to an average day in Hong Kong. The refugee women live in such difficult circumstances but they remain so positive. It's a very humbling experience," she says.

Fletcher donates about 90 minutes of her time each week. She typically spends the time knitting and crocheting, but is currently making Christmas decorations that will be sold to raise funds for the charity. "We could do with more knitters," she says. Volunteers in the women's group also teach life skills such as English, computing and maths.

Smiles all around Besides becoming a volunteer, an easy way to support Vision First, and get into the spirit of the season, is to shop at Tiny Footprints (10/F, 1 Duddell Street, Central). As part of the Christmas Giving Tree project, the shop has a tree covered in gift tags. Buy one and a present will be sent to a refugee child. The project runs until the end of the month.


Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Mission In addition to the thousands of strays caught and destroyed each year, the number of dumped animals rises after Christmas. So much for "a pet is for life". The SPCA's mantra is to promote kindness towards animals and protect their health.

Hands on Trained volunteers can help care for the animals but for people without veterinary experience, there are tasks such as walking dogs or cleaning cages, which is how Sally Yuen Oi-yan contributes. The 16-year-old joined the SPCA six months ago. She has been helping out at the Wan Chai headquarters, and has been bitten by the bug to do more. "I want to get more involved so will be taking part in a walk to raise funds on January 19 at Disneyland. I've been telling all my friends to get involved," she says.

Charity begins at home Another way to support the SPCA is to foster animals. Volunteers can also provide a temporary home for sick, injured or younger animals. The SPCA will take care of all the medical needs during an animal's stay, which typically lasts for three or four weeks.


Feeding Hong Kong

Mission When it comes to overindulgence, Christmas and the New Year are top of the list. But a glance at the statistics shows this continues all year round when it comes to food. The Environmental Protection Department says about 3,200 tonnes of food is sent to landfills every day in Hong Kong, accounting for a third of the city's solid waste. Feeding Hong Kong was set up in 2011 to act as a bridge between the hungry and the city's hospitality and food manufacturing industries.

Hands on Andrew Brooker helps out at the charity about three times a week and more often during December. He has many roles: helping to organise fairs, promoting cookbooks, fundraising and delivering food to the 43 charities affiliated with Feeding Hong Kong. "We are middle men to these charities. We also have a Breakfast Club where we collect unsold bread from our 90 affiliated bakeries in the city and deliver it to our charity partners, including refugee shelters, church groups, elderly homes and those living below the poverty line. The logistics are overwhelming, so the more help the better, as it speeds up collection and delivery time."

Green thumbs for good Feeding Hong Kong is always looking for fresh produce. One way people can help is by converting their rooftops into gardens and growing herbs, fruit and vegetables to donate.


KELY Support Group

Mission Empowering young people's growth through non-judgmental support, especially in areas such as drug and alcohol harm-reduction programmes, is the KELY Support Group's focus.

Hands on Volunteers are one of KELY's most valuable assets, and the group is on the lookout for help in areas such as music, the visual arts, drama, circus performance, fundraising, web design, sports and adventure activities. Nathan Kiefer Yung, 15, says he heard about KELY through friends and now devotes one day a week to the group. "Most satisfaction comes from seeing that the work has an impact," he says. Volunteering has also shown him a potential career path - he wants to work for a charity.

See the show Visit the exhibition Mentoring Ethnic Minority Youth for Community Participation and Integration at Polytechnic University from January 19-25. The show includes photography, short films and a book project inspired by members of a programme that helps Hong Kong's ethnic minority to find their voice.


Sailability Hong Kong

Mission Sailability Hong Kong provides the equipment and expertise to offer the experience of sailing to people with disabilities. The charity is one of the 18 beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus this year.

Hands on Caroline Redhead volunteers twice a week and says seeing people out on the water provides her with much satisfaction. Redhead rigs the boats and handles jobs that require heavy lifting. "I've told all my friends about how satisfying it is. I highly recommend it," she says.

Make them an offer Be a sport and make a donation to help the charity send a team to the Asian Para Games in October.


These charities could use your help

Riding for the Disabled Association
Saddle up to help the RDA’s work with disabled children and adults. Volunteers can assist people to ride horses, which is considered one of the most beneficial therapies for the disabled.

This charity lends a hand to ensure children born in Hong Kong to migrants get a fair start in life. Pathfinders helps mothers make informed decisions about their future by providing professional legal advice and shelter. The group also helps find families to adopt children.

Dedicated to improving job opportunities for the hearing impaired and to lobby on their behalf, Silence also offers sign language courses. Volunteers can sign up for a course and then provide support and training at the group’s headquarters and at other locations around Hong Kong.

Shark Rescue
A ban on shark’s fin soup by some hotels and airlines has been a huge stride forward for shark conservation efforts in Hong Kong. Shark Rescue says the battle is ongoing. The charity was set up to protect sharks from extinction and save the oceans. Get involved now by signing an online petition to end the shark trade at the group’s website.

Ebenezer School and Home for the Visually Impaired
Volunteers at the Ebenezer School are actively involved in programmes that include recording audio tapes, assisting in the classroom and with extracurricular activities, taking part in extra tuition, and producing Braille for use by the school.


Add these dates to your diary

The Community Chest
The Community Chest has raised millions of dollars for social welfare agencies and helped our community's disadvantaged for 45 years. If you'd like to help with their fundraising efforts, slip on your sneakers and take part in the Hong Kong and Kowloon Walk on January 5.

WWF Hong Kong
Help protect the environment while getting in touch with nature by supporting WWF Hong Kong's longest-running fundraising event. The 30th edition of the Big Bird Race takes place on January 25 between 6.30am and 6.30pm. The proceeds will go towards the conservation and management of the Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Clean Air Network
Pollution is a problem we're all too familiar with. Last year, the city's air was considered safe to breathe on just 69 days, according to World Health Organisation standards. The Clean Air Network is lobbying the government to help clean up its act. The network and the Sham Shui Po District Council have organised a day of games and performances on January 26 to educate the public about air pollution and green transport. The event features air quality survey results, dance performances and game stalls from 2pm-5pm at the playground outside Lai Kok Shopping Centre in Cheung Sha Wan.

Hong Kong ArtWalk
Wandering the streets to check out art with a glass of wine in hand sounds like a good way to get involved with fundraising, and that's exactly what ArtWalk is about. One of the most popular events on the cultural calendar has raised more than HK$5.4 million for Hong Kong charities since it started in 2001. The next edition will be held on March 12.

By emphasising the benefits of fair trade goods, Crossroads hopes to help consumers shop ethically. Groups can organise a tour that will educate them on shopping for fair trade gifts, hear about Crossroads and its mission, and enjoy ethically produced drinks at the Silk Road Café.