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Operation Santa Claus

Balloons, art and on-board fun at floating Christmas party for Hong Kong children

Melco Group staff and Hong Kong Physically Handicapped and Able-bodied Association members light up the festive season as volunteers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2016, 1:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2016, 6:50pm

More than two dozen children were given a chance to experience being on board a ‘boat’ for the first time in their lives, as part of a Christmas party last week to cap off an annual charity campaign.

Accompanied by their parents, youngsters aged two to six from Benji’s Centre, which offers speech therapy for underprivileged children, travelled from Sha Tin in the New Territories to the Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant in Aberdeen.

The party was organised by entertainment, gaming and leisure company Melco Group, which is a donor to Operation Santa Claus – a charity campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK. This was the third year in a row the group has participated in the campaign.

Four-year-old Ching-man from Benji’s Centre was among those who were elated by the opportunity to explore the iconic seafood barge.

“She has always been afraid to talk to and would often avoid eye contact with strangers, but when she saw the boat, she was so excited and left everyone behind,” mother Luo Qiuyun said.

For staff from Jumbo Kingdom – which is under Melco – and the Hong Kong Physically Handicapped and Able-bodied Association, it was also their first time volunteering.

“Weekends are the busiest time for the restaurant so I always miss out on these events, which are usually on such days,” first-time volunteer Catherine Lam Chi-wan, sales and marketing director of Jumbo Kingdom, said.

She had immediately signed up for the event knowing that it would be held at her workplace.

Lam also brought along her two daughters, aged eight and 10, to volunteer as she wanted them to learn about giving back to the community and also to widen their understanding of different needs in society.

“My daughters blended in so well with the children from Benji’s Centre that in the end I think they almost forgot who was the volunteer and who was the beneficiary – everyone just enjoyed the time together,” Lam said.

Around 50 children and parents joined the day’s festivities, which included games, art and balloon twisting sessions.

First-time volunteer Wong Lai-him, 18, from the Hong Kong Physically Handicapped and Able-bodied Association attended eight hours of balloon twisting classes sponsored by Melco before lending his skills to the party.

The sword and dog balloons that Wong came up with were such a hit with the children that there was a queue to acquire one.

Wong, who suffers from dyslexia, said: “I share the joy of the children after seeing how happy they were to receive the balloons I made.”

He added that the children’s smiles motivated him to think about doing more volunteering work in the future.

Jumbo Kingdom accounting manager Pamela Wong Sau-fung, who has been volunteering in the company’s fundraising events for more than seven years, said she would continue to dedicate her spare time to similar causes.

“[Volunteer work] is not just a contribution to others, because you will also gain much from it. My world has become much bigger after being in touch with a larger variety of people in this society,” she added.