Operation Santa Claus

Hang Seng Bank volunteers bring Christmas stories to life

Bank employees also help children at Hans Andersen Club make their own Christmas cards to share festive cheer

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 December, 2016, 11:28am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 December, 2016, 8:20pm

A group of energetic children ­immediately went quiet as a Hang Seng Bank employee in a green jacket walked up to the stage holding his arms above his head to form a triangle.

“Christmas Tree!” the 20 children, aged four to eight, shouted as they sat inside Storyland – a Hans Andersen Club centre – to watch a performance by five members of bank staff while a club employee narrated a classic Christmas story.

“Our children are familiar with the customs of big festivals like Christmas because they learn about them from storybooks even if they may not have very festive items at home,” Karen Lai Kai-yan, club project officer, said.

The charity is a beneficiary of Operation Santa Claus (OSC), the annual fundraiser held by the South China Morning Post and RTHK. It holds regular storytelling workshops and offers book-borrowing services for children from low-income families.

Lai said children from such backgrounds found it a luxury to have stories read to them.

“We often meet parents who are not confident in reading books to their children because they think they are not well educated enough to do so. We therefore provide training for them here, and we also welcome volunteers who would like to share the joy of reading to our children,” she said.

As a regular visitor at Storyland, six-year-old Winnie Yip Wing-yan said she gets to listen to stories only when she visits the centre at Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon.

“I love Christmas because I get presents, and I can listen to Christmas stories,” Winnie said.

Jeffrey Chan Ying-kit, Hang Seng’s vice president of corporate banking, said he was not tired even after having to squat and get down to the children’s level to be a Christmas tree for 15 minutes of storytelling. The bank is one of the donors to the fundraising ­campaign this year.

“I enjoyed it a lot, and I could feel that the more I engaged in my acting, the more the children would naturally engage in the story,” Chan said.

After the performance, the ­volunteers made Christmas cards with the children and encouraged them to spread the joy and love of the festive season to those all around them.

Bank management trainee Connie Diu Yi-kwan said helping the children make the cards reminded her of when she was their age.

“For grown-ups, all we do during Christmas seems to about big feasts and glamorous lighting. It has been a long time since I last made handicrafts as gifts for my friends and family,” she said.

“It is important that we give back to society, especially at times like Christmas. We can remind each other about the important message of sharing and love,” Alison Ho Cheuk-wai, bank head of corporate responsibility, said.