OPERATION SANTA
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Operation Santa Claus

Santa pays early visit to children of migrant mothers

Credit Suisse expects to raise HK$578,300 for family charity Pathfinders

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 7:34pm

Christmas came early this year for the needy children of some of the city’s migrant mothers.

Myo Schollum, a managing director at Credit Suisse, dressed up as Santa Claus at charity Pathfinders on Friday to hand out presents to delighted youngsters.

Schollum, visibly moved by the happiness of the children around him, said the event was about making a difference.

“We could all have grown up facing the same difficulties,” he said.

Every year Credit Suisse ­selects a charity to benefit from money raised at its annual party, and this year it expects to raise HK$578,300 for Pathfinders.

Since 2000, the financial ­services company has raised funds for Operation Santa Claus, the charity campaign jointly ­organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, through various initiatives.

It is the eighth year for Credit Suisse to partner the campaign.

The company’s Greater China chief executive, Neil Harvey, said the fundraising drive has become part of Christmas tradition and, although it is not required of them, more than half of employees get involved.

Harvey said he believed ­people in Hong Kong were often unaware of what others in the city had to go through.

“People don’t see it, or they don’t want to,” he said. “So events like this give them the chance to get in touch with the community and give back.”

Having someone asking something as simple as ‘How are you?’ makes a great difference
Kay McArlde

Pathfinders was established in 2007, when co-founders Melissa Mowbray-d’Arbela and Kylie Uebergang rescued four babies born to migrant women.

Chief executive officer Kay McArlde explained that from those first four cases, the charity had grown to help about 900 children and single mothers.

She said the women were ­usually current or former domestic workers, who were often unfairly treated by their employers.

“When they get pregnant, they get fired,” McArlde said. “Then they have two weeks to find a new job, or they must leave. So they ­become ‘illegals’, they lose the health care treatments, they lose their home. Often they end up with no food.”

She said the ultimate focus of Pathfinders is to educate both the women and the employers.

“We conduct health care, sex education, parenting and legal rights classes for the mothers,” she said. “And we try to instil ­compassion and kindness in the employers.”

Credit Suisse vice-president Liza Green said one of the ­company’s main philanthropic objectives is education.

“We are committed to dedicating money, time and skills to the community,” she said. “It’s also important for the employees to see the employers involved.”

Green revealed that events such as the one at Pathfinders were the ones she most enjoyed attending.

“Meeting the beneficiaries, seeing people’s lives transformed – for me, this is the highlight of a charity campaign,” she said.

McArdle said in addition to cheering up the children, events like this were an occasion for the mothers to get together.

“Many live in isolation,” she said. “Having someone asking something as simple as ‘How are you?’ makes a great difference.”

Pathfinders provides voluntary medical, legal and psychological support to these families, McArdle said. “Their living conditions are difficult, but the children are loved.”

One of the charity’s most ­recent success stories was an ­Indonesian-Chinese boy who had not gone to school before the age of 12, had no access to medical care and no legal identity.

“Pathfinders sent him to school, and now he ranks first in Chinese in his class,” McArdle said.

This showed the resilience of children, she said, but the charity aimed to intervene earlier to allow them to have a real childhood.

“We have achieved a lot thanks to Operation Santa Claus in the past,” McArdle said. “I’m sure we’ll do even more in the future.”