The peaceful atmosphere of a remote forest, the spectacular view from a plateau and a sense of charity-induced purpose – these were the elements that convinced 20 employees from Haitong International to go on a 10km hike earlier this month. Teaming up for a second year with Operation Santa Claus (OSC), a charity campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, the Haitong staff members challenged themselves to help some of Hong Kong’s most underprivileged people. Starting from Tai Shui Hang at 9.30am on December 3, the employees enjoyed the natural beauty of Ma On Shan Country Park before reaching Sai Kung more than three hours later. Circus thrills out of Africa strike a festive vibe for Hong Kong youngsters Head of cash equities Mark Burges Watson said standing on top of Pyramid Hill was the most memorable moment of the hike for him. “For a small place, Hong Kong has an unbelievable number of hiking trails and such a variety of landscapes,” he said. “I’ve lived in Hong Kong for nearly seven years, but I had never been up there.” Burges Watson said the hike not only served to raise funds for the city’s less fortunate, it was also a reminder that “the best things in life are still free”. He said he strongly believed in the need to protect places of natural beauty for Hong Kong’s future generations. “Some people groan at the idea of doing things outside work with colleagues,” he said. “Often we forget that behind every colleague is a person. But on a walk, no one is a senior VP or an executive director. They are just the person next to you, enjoying the same view.” A Haitong International spokeswoman said the company’s commitment to support small charity organisations was the core focus of the event. She added that this was their first hike, and it had received generally positive feedback. “It brought our colleagues together in the name of charity and team building,” she said. Hong Kong police officers pull together for Operation Santa Claus in a day of fun and games The hike has raised HK$50,000 for OSC’s 23 local beneficiaries. The spokeswoman said Haitong highly valued the long history and credibility of OSC. “Small charities often have difficulties fundraising, and we believe that OSC can raise awareness among the public,” she said. The Haitong International Charitable Foundation was established in 2014. “We want to give new hope to those in need,” she said. “Haitong has been striving to identify humanitarian organisations that share our values. For this reason, OSC represents a good match.” The hike encouraged a healthy work and life balance, the spokeswoman added. “We care for the mental and physical well-being of our staff,” she said. “We offer everyone opportunities to enjoy nature and escape the pressures of the office environment.” After the success of this year’s hike, Haitong International is considering making the event part of their future corporate social responsibility routine.