United Nations’ International Day of Charity: A time to give back and help those in need

Charity begins at home, and we've come up with five acts of kindness students can do to help the elderly, homeless, and others in Hong Kong

Rhea Mogul |

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In honour of The United Nations’ International Day of Charity, we've compiled a list of things you can do to help people in your community.

September 5 marks the United Nations’ International Day of Charity. Officially declared by the UN General Assembly in 2012, the day serves as a reminder to help the most vulnerable in our society, and also promotes charitable work on both local and international levels. The date was chosen to commemorate the death of Mother Teresa, a nun who devoted her life to fighting poverty and serving the underprivileged.

In its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the UN has recognised poverty as a huge, worldwide problem. But they are making its eradication one of their highest priorities.

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In Hong Kong, the number of poor hit a record high in 2017, with one in five people living below the poverty line, according to statistics by the Census and Statistics Department.

There’s a saying that charity begins at home, and there are many ways you can make that happen today. Here are five random acts of kindness that you can do this International Day of Charity.

Read a book or perform for the elderly

There are a lot of care homes for the elderly across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Many of their residents have no other family in Hong Kong and are often lonely or bored. Form a group with your friends and visit a home to read to them. Or if you play a musical instrument, sing or act, you could perform a few songs or a show for them while they enjoy their afternoon tea.

Buy a meal for the homeless

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, and those most affected by increasing rent and prices are those that live below the poverty line. There are a number of non-government organisations that offer support to the homeless. One of these, ImpactHK, has opened The Guestroom at 29 Oak Street in Tai Kok Tsui, a safe space for homeless people, where they can get a meal, relax and meet new people.

You can offer to pay for their dinners, and sit and share the meal with them. Sometimes a personal connection is as big a donation as cash.

The interior of ImpactHK founder Jeff Rotmeyer's centre, The Guestroom, in Tai Kok Tsui. The Guestroom is a safe place for the homeless to visit.
Photo: SCMP / Jonathan Wong

Hold a clothing collection drive

People in Hong Kong are often looking for places to donate old clothes so they can declutter their apartments. This year, why not take the initiative to organise a clothing collection drive in your building, and donate a large amount of items at once to a charity like the Salvation Army or Christian Action Hong Kong? Clothes donated will be distributed to poor, displaced or disadvantaged residents throughout Hong Kong and the mainland.

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Hand out red packets to street cleaners

Sweeping the streets of Hong Kong is a thankless job, yet we depend on the people who do it to ensure our city is clean and organised. Together with your friends, chip in some money to fill red packets (at least HK$20 per envelope) and hand them out to your local street cleaners. Take the opportunity to thank them for the wonderful job they do every day.

Keep the homeless warm this winter

Before long, the temperature in the city will begin to drop; you can only imagine how terrible it would be to sleep on the streets in the cold. Try your hand at knitting some scarves, beanies, or blankets – or see if you have any spare at home that you can donate – and offer them to homeless people. You could also donate them to a charity like the Crossroads Foundation, which collects and distributes such items.