Volunteering to help those in need is an enriching experience for many, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, education and financial means.
The Agency for Volunteer Service (AVS), in conjunction with supermarket chain China Resources Vanguard (Hong Kong), organises the HSBC Share-to-Care Volunteer Campaign to involve citizens from all walks of life in voluntary work. The programme has succeeded in breaking down barriers. Participation in the programme has also expanded considerably this year.
The event was originally held to mark the United Nations' International Volunteer Day on December 5. Its present name was adopted when the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation became the title sponsor last year.
Under the theme 'Volunteer to Create a Community in Harmony', those who are underprivileged - ethnic minority groups and recent immigrants from the mainland - joined forces for the first time with employees, teachers and students, charitable organisations and a number of senior citizens to visit households of the elderly and the disadvantaged, delivering gifts and well wishes.
The community has provided generous support to the campaign. A record-breaking 20,000 volunteers from more than 400 non-profit organisations participated. More than 30,000 needy households received gift packs donated by the public.
The campaign, which is in its sixth year, culminated in a gala in March where volunteers received commendations from Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung.
'We are encouraged to see that the appeal of the campaign has broadened tremendously and some underprivileged individuals have been mobilised to participate in volunteer work,' says AVS chairman J.P. Lee. 'I hope that through this campaign those underprivileged individuals realise that they also have the ability to help others.
'Although volunteers embrace altruism, they personally benefit from the activities. The interaction with those in need of help affords the volunteers the opportunity to reflect on themselves. Their life experience is enriched and their horizon is widened. Volunteer work helps facilitate their personal growth and development. Many volunteers receive training to upgrade their communication and interpersonal skills, and practical skills in providing care to the elderly or disabled. They have also built friendships with those they care for and other volunteers. These are the bonuses of volunteer service.'
This year's campaign kicked off with charity sales in which the general public were encouraged to purchase gift items or make cash donations at China Resources Vanguard supermarkets late last year.
At the end of January, individuals from all walks of life were mobilised to form volunteer teams and make service pledges at the campaign's Service Day ceremony in Sham Shui Po. A host of non-profit organisations were invited to organise their volunteer teams and apply for charity gift packs. These volunteer teams presented the packs on home visits to those in need.
Over the years, China Resources Vanguard has provided financial and logistical support to the campaign, while other local corporations have organised their volunteer teams to participate. The government supports the campaign through its Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged.
Lee appreciates the commitment of local corporations to volunteer work as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. 'Volunteer work helps foster closer connections between corporations and the community. These activities definitely help to boost public recognition for the corporations involved. It should be beneficial for their long-term development,' he says.
'As the corporations motivate their employees to take part in volunteer service, the employees gain added value [through work outside the workplace]. The collaboration among the employees in volunteer service will also help enhance the team spirit and the sense of belonging towards their corporations.'
Although the scale of the campaign has been growing in recent years and the number of beneficiaries is on the rise, Lee believes its success is not measured in numerical terms. 'We do not set quantitative targets,' he says. 'Our main goal will remain the same - we will continue to motivate more individuals to participate in volunteer service and create a positive impact on society.'