Dress up for charity: students, parents and staff of Hong Kong school raise HK$52,000 for Operation Santa Claus

  • Parents say the initiative teaches children to be compassionate and learn the true meaning of Christmas
  • The annual event is run by the South China Morning Post and public broadcaster RTHK
Joyce Yip |

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(L to R) Dayanthi Panabokke and her daughter Dulari Ihalagama pose for a picture at Discovery Mind Primary School and Kindergarten in Tung Chung during a fundraiser for Operation Santa Claus. Photo: SCMP/ Edmond So

Four-year-old Dulari Ihalagama came to class at a kindergarten in Hong Kong dressed in red from head to toe, her hair adorned with reindeer horns and bells. And it was all for a good cause.

Students, their parents and staff of Discovery Mind campuses in Tung Chung and Discovery Bay turned up for “Dress in Red & Green with Crazy Hair Day” on November 19, 2021, decked out in festive attire such as elf outfits and decorative wigs.

The greatest Christmas gift is paying it forward

The event raised HK$52,000 for Operation Santa Claus (OSC), an annual charity drive co-organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK since 1988. OSC supported 18 beneficiary organisations in 2021.

Discovery Mind has been a partner of OSC for the past 16 years, raising more than HK$1.7 million. It used to hold bake sales or charity walks to raise money for the organisation, but the coronavirus pandemic meant it had to scale down its fundraising activities to a virtual celebration in 2020 and a dress-up event last year.

Staff and parents remained enthusiastic all the same. Dulari’s mother, Dayanthi Panabokke, said her daughter, who attends the kindergarten in Tung Chung, was taking part in the event for the third year.

(L to R) Father Sammie Chan, Mother Suzanne Chan and daughter Elodie Chan pose for a picture during Operation Santa Claus celebrations. Photo: SCMP/ Edmond So

“Whichever form it takes, it gives a good message to the kids because it allows you to move away from the materialistic nature of Christmas right now. Events like these [reinforce] the importance of sharing and appreciating what they have,” she said.

The amount raised came as a pleasant surprise for Kabeeta Gurung, who heads Discovery Mind kindergarten. Social-distancing restrictions meant the kindergarten had not been able to fully resume classes until August 2021, and could only confirm “Dress in Red & Green with Crazy Hair Day” three weeks before the event.

“We’re not disappointed about a [smaller-scale event] because we’re still supporting OSC. It’s about creating awareness and teaching children about compassion and empathy as well. It’s not all about academic learning: children need … to have the perspective that it’s not just about me, that we can do good,” she said, adding that character building activities such as the OSC event had always been part of Discovery Mind’s curriculum.

OSC LOGO – Operation Santa Claus 2021.
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