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Operation Santa Claus

Growing charity promotes wellness among Hong Kong’s youth through sports

For first year working with Operation Santa Claus, Friends of Asia co-organises five-a-side soccer tournament to raise funds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 10:43am

A Hong Kong charity has scored a win with its five-a-side soccer tournament that raised about HK$1 million.

Friends of Asia, founded in 2014, co-organised the event with the Hong Kong Football Club as part of Operation Santa Claus, the annual fundraiser organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK. It is the first year the charity is taking part in the drive.

Friends of Asia started with two beneficiaries and had 12 this year. It aims to inspire and create community awareness of physical and mental wellness along with illness prevention.

The charity, through its affiliate the Asian Foundation, matched the net amount of funds raised at the tournament.

On why it teamed up with ­Operation Santa Claus, Friends of Asia Hong Kong chief executive Helen Chan Li Yuet-ying said: “Football is a very good sport for young people … team spirit and building their confidence and also very good for their health, so we want to do more, not just for golf and tennis, but swimming, soccer, rope-skipping, fencing, whatever is good for health promotion, we would like to support.”

Shooting and scoring for charity at 20th annual Operation Santa Claus five-a-side soccer tournament

Friends of Asia has been a charity partner for various major sports tournaments in Hong Kong and has raised and matched over HK$6 million to support NGO programmes for children covering a wide range of sports from tennis to rope-skipping, along with health and wellness programmes.

Li said such activities played a vital role in the healthy development of children and young people.

“We like to promote all kinds of sports among the young, the youth and especially the underprivileged, because they don’t get as many opportunities as other people in the city,” she added. “So we give them the opportunity to develop their potential. Many of them, they just need the opportunity to develop. By this they can rise to the top.”

The charity is now expanding from golf and tennis to soccer, swimming, dragon boat racing and sponsoring underprivileged children for music and internet programmes.

Li said her brother Caleb Chan, who founded Friends of Asia, is doing similar work in Hawaii. His group there is called Friends of Hawaii, and they aim to create awareness in the community that sports and recreation are as important as education for health and wellness.

The siblings are following in their father’s footsteps when it comes to charity work.

“Our family, before we moved to Canada, we lived in Hong Kong. I grew up here, I went to school here,” Li said.

“Now that we are entering our retirement age, and our children are all grown up, most of our family members have returned to Hong Kong where our roots are, enjoying the local community and doing whatever we can to support the community again.

“My father started [doing] philanthropy in Hong Kong, and my brothers, both of them, are now continuing the work. My father was the first donor to help start up the Adventist Hospital, which was back in the mid-1960s and early 1970s. That’s why we are supporting all these healthy lifestyle programmes run by the hospital, we think that would benefit a lot of people in the community.”

Looking to the year ahead, Li said hoped Friends of Asia could ramp up its mission and try to have more beneficiaries to help more young people.