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Wrapping dumplings, warming hearts

Volunteers, young and old, gave out thousands of hand-made rice dumplings to elderly homes and centres across Hong Kong, bringing smiles everywhere they visited, writes Sebastien Raybaud

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 10:13am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 10:13am

[First published on 25 June, 2017] In celebration of this year’s Dragon Boat festival, more than 50 student and staff volunteers from West Island and South Island Schools made and gave out around 2,000 rice dumplings last month.

For three days in May, volunteers went to three elderly homes, distributing the treats in Ma Tau Wai Estate, Wong Tai Sin and Shau Kei Wan.

Volunteers wanted to show respect for the elderly. “We believe Tuen Ng [Dragon Boat festival] is all about family, culture and tradition,” says ESF senior human resources executive, Stanley Ho.

“The aim was to find a way to gather volunteers to contribute to society while having fun.”

Perfecting the bamboo wrap

The volunteers wrapped raw dumplings in the Kowloon Junior School hall, before dividing them up in the afternoon. They were all vegetarian, and made with rice and beans, and no meat or eggs to cater to the widest possible tastes.

Making the rice dumplings required a lot of practice and was the most difficult part of the event – as the volunteers found out!

Kate Lee, 15, a South Island student said: “At first, it was pretty hard ... there were many failed attempts when wrapping the rice with bamboo leaves. Rice kept falling out of the holes, which meant we had to redo the entire process. However, after practising several times, it was really easy to make,” says Kate.

Ho was more specific with how much effort was needed to perfect them saying: “It took about five dumplings till they started looking presentable!”

Know your rice dumpling history

For West Island student Sebastian Caldwell, 15, learning the history of the dumplings was a highlight.

“I enjoyed making dumplings because of the connection to the original story about Qu Yuan,” says Sebastian.

In case you don’t know the tale, Qu was an ancient Chinese minister exiled by the king. He jumped into the Miluo River, in modern-day Hunan province and died. The villagers wanted to prevent his body from being eaten by fish or attacked by evil spirits, so they threw rice dumplings into the river while beating drums and slapping their paddles in the water.

It’s our responsibility

Giving back to the community was highly rewarding and satisfying for all the volunteers.

“The reason I chose to help out is that I love seeing smiles on elderly faces – it brightens all of our days,” says Sebastian, who has been volunteering for three years.

“I have been to the same elderly centres many times. The elderly residents and I all recognised each other, so it was a great reunion,” he adds.

The volunteer experience was also a chance to share time with loved ones. “Making the sticky rice dumpling with my friends, my mum and her colleagues was really enjoyable; we chatted and had a lot of laughs together,” says Kate.

According to statistics published by Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department in 2015, 15 per cent of the city’s population was aged 65 or older.

After this experience, Kate realised the importance of paying attention to the city’s elderly residents. “They may feel lonely and need our support,” she says.

The generation above have paved the way for young people of Hong Kong. “They have helped Hong Kong become the great city it is now, and it is up to the younger generation to show their appreciation by maintaining that standard,” Kate adds.