From a woman who hands out free food weekly to the needy, to a foster mum who has set up a loving home to 57 children and counting, Hong Kong has no lack of individuals with big hearts, quietly making a difference in the city. Now, they can get the recognition they deserve, as polls are open for the Spirit of Hong Kong People’s Choice Award, organised by the South China Morning Post for the fifth year. This year’s series celebrates 18 unsung heroes for their selfless efforts to make life better for the less fortunate. From now till July 30, readers can vote online for the person they think is most deserving of the award, from five categories for individuals. Other nominees include an inventor who built a device preventing dementia patients from wandering away from home, and a prison chaplain who has stopped 150 traffickers from smuggling drugs into Hong Kong. In addition to the poll, one winner will be selected by a panel of judges from seven categories: community contribution, compassion ambassador, cultural preservation, innovating for good, overcoming personal challenge, corporate citizen (group) and Lion Rock entrepreneurship (group). Results will be announced in September. Head judge and MTR Corporation chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang believes that the Spirit of Hong Kong nominees are role models for those in the city. There are heroes who are making this place better every day Frederic Ma Si-hang, head judge “The project gathers people from different sectors of society – business, media, charities, social workers, and many more – to celebrate those who have made a positive impact and fuels us all to work collaboratively to make this city a better place,” he said. “Having been a part of this award for several years, it is something that is very meaningful to me personally. “I am inspired and uplifted by the nominees I meet as I hear their unique stories. The awards remind me that in this busy city, there are heroes who are making this place better every day.” Judge David Pang Ding-jung said the nominees served as examples to others in Hong Kong. The chairman of Armada Holdings, formerly known as the SCMP Group, believes the awards encourage Hongkongers to find ways to improve society. “There are many people in society who are what we call ‘unsung heroes’. They offer unconditional help to the needy ones and their good deeds often go unnoticed,” he said. Meet the 17-year-old American student helping refugees in Hong Kong learn English “We hope to use this award to show that if anybody is willing to devote their heart and their time, and of course perseverance ... to help others, even ordinary people can make changes.” Along with Ma and Pang, other judges are Sino Group executive director Daryl Ng Win-kong and general manager Nikki Ng Mien-hua; former Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chairman Ronald Arculli; executive councillor Anna Wu Hung-yuk; former secretary for works Ronald James Blake; former permanent secretary of home affairs Shelley Lee Lai-kuen; chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service Chua Hoi-wai; and Post editor-in-chief Tammy Tam. Click here to vote for your favourite individual for the People’s Choice Award.