Operation Santa Claus

Bank looks to spread Christmas cheer with toy collection drive for Hong Kong’s underprivileged children

Bank of America Merrill Lynch employees collect more than HK$400,000 worth of toys for donation to beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 December, 2016, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 3:53pm

Christmas is about more than receiving presents, but in an ideal world no child would wake up on December 25 without at least one gift-wrapped toy waiting under the tree.

For the 19th consecutive year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is working to help underprivileged children in Hong Kong enjoy some Christmas cheer, this year with a toy collection event.

Between November 14 and 25, the bank’s employees gathered more than 5,000 toys for some of the beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus, the annual festive charity campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Although recently established, the toy drive is gradually becoming a heartfelt company tradition, its organisers said.

The bank’s Asia Pacific chief operating officer and Hong Kong country executive, Richard Yacenda, said both he and his employees felt strongly about giving back to local families who might be struggling financially in the festive season.

“[Operation Santa Claus] is one of the charities I’m most passionate about,” he said. “It is about our efforts to help families access basic provisions in the community.”

Employees across all departments – including investment banking, legal affairs and technology – took part in the campaign, collecting almost twice as many toys as last year, including dolls, footballs and cuddly toys. The collection was worth more than HK$400,000 in total.

The toys will be donated to various local organisations, including Benji’s Centre, which supports children with speech problems, and the Rainbow Project, which helps those with autism.

Tan Yan-pheng, a foreign exchange trading team director from the bank, said employees were also ­organising Christmas parties for some beneficiaries.

“Some of our volunteers can go there and directly distribute the toys,” she said. “This helps us relate to the charities we’re involved with.”

There were 182,300 children living in poverty in Hong Kong after recurrent cash interventions, namely social welfare payments, according to the government’s Poverty Situation Report 2015.

Yacenda said that as a parent, he felt personally compelled to help some of the neediest children.

“Young kids do not understand the disparities in the world, and to be able to put a smile on their faces is very important,” he said.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has helped significant numbers of families over the past two decades, raising about HK$19 million for Operation Santa Claus.

On December 9, the bank will host its annual charity golf day, with all proceeds to be donated to Operation Santa Claus.