Kids4Kids finds way for public to be part of the solution for the underprivileged

By Young Wang

Students are heading a campaign to collect appliances for, and improve lives of, those in need

By Young Wang |

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Julie Shi (left) and Miguel Borje want to make a real change.

Hong Kong may seem to be the sort of place where everyone can afford the newest iPhone, but 27 per cent of the city's children live in poverty.

"Poverty is [just] more hidden away in Hong Kong," said Miguel Borje, a Year 12 Renaissance College student who launched the fifth Sharing for a Cause campaign this month with Julie Shi, a Year 12 student from West Island School. The campaign, run by local charity Kids4Kids, collects goods from those who have a lot and donates to those who have nothing.

Miguel and Julie have both worked as volunteers for Kids4Kids for more than two years, and were chosen as project leaders at the end of last year's campaign. Working with a team of around 20 volunteers from different schools, the project is their biggest passion - and a lot of hard work. "It's a volunteer project … lots of students don't [treat] volunteering as a priority, but our job as project leaders is to ensure that our priority is for Sharing for a Cause to run smoothly," said Miguel.

Taking the lead this year, Julie says, is "more responsibility, but you also realise how much effort people put in to helping others and the potential we have to make a difference. It's not like you put money in a box to make donation and then just walk away and forget you did it. It stays with you."

Planning and running the project can clash with school work and exams, but modern technology helps. Social media, Google Drive, and other platforms that allow remote work helped to take some stress off the pair. "Since it's an inter-school initiative, it's really important that we take advantage of these different components," said Miguel.

The team also had help from Kids4Kids mentors and staff - including the charity's founder Michele Lai - who are familiar with previous campaigns and are able to give advice. However, as a student-led project, "I think it's definitely us driving it forward," said Miguel.

"We try as best as we can to take the initiative, but where we require guidance, we ask our mentors."

The students reached out to buildings, corporate sponsors and supporting organisations for support, working closely with staff from companies to make sure all the necessary support for Sharing for a Cause - from collection points and transportation of goods to statistics on poverty, and which districts were most in need - would come together.

Although the amount of work and commitment Miguel and Julie are required to put in is equal to what their peers might experience on an internship, that's not why they do it. Miguel says getting involved in such projects helps "this younger generation to realise the needs of others, and to be an active participant in positive change to ensure those needs are met".

First held in 2011 as a week-long campaign called "Books for a Cause", the organisation collected a lot more than expected and decided to extend it to collect as many books as possible.

Looking at statistics on underprivileged families in Hong Kong, Miguel realised that "they have a home, but in that home, they are only able to sustain their current way of living but not really able to develop their financial status".

"[Now] we don't only collect books, but things people really need," said Julie. This year, they are collecting educational toys and home appliances in the hopes of improving the lives of the three per cent of the city's population that can't afford these things.

For Julie, what she has been doing with Kids4Kids from being a volunteer who reads English story books to underprivileged children to becoming a project leader is like "laying the ground work for them [the underprivileged] to keep moving up so they can eventually have a better quality of life".

Sharing for a Cause runs until May 29. Miguel and Julie hope to fill 700 boxes at citywide collection points, which include schools, office buildings and Pacific Coffee stores. Find the one closest to you!