Most of us know one Hong Kong – limitless shopping, glamorous parties, new restaurants to try – but often we don’t see the other side. With over a million people here living in poverty, there is quite a bit of need in Hong Kong.
We are all incredibly busy, but carving out some time in your week or month to volunteer can be a way to better understand the community in which you live. Hands On Hong Kong, an organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism, is a one-stop-volunteerism-shop for even the busiest in Hong Kong by providing a wide variety of flexible, and meaningful, opportunities in the community. A quick look at their monthly calendar shows some interesting opportunities.
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Approximately 2,500 people apply for refugee status in Hong Kong each year. Most escape from war-torn countries in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. They are not allowed to work and their rent allowance is a mere HK$1,000 a month, food allowance is one bag of food every 10 days. Children, while given the opportunity to go to school here, often don’t speak Chinese or English. How you can help: volunteers can help by providing homework help on weekends to children, and skill-building activities with adults.
Many elderly in Hong Kong live in poverty (some estimates are around one-third of the elderly population), and more than 12% live without a spouse or family member. These people often live in elderly residences and rely on volunteers to provide social interaction. How you can help: volunteers are needed to visit with the elderly to provide friendship and social activities, such as games and outings.
Many of the ethnic minority families living in Hong Kong come from the rest of Asia (India, Indonesia, Philippines, etc.). Ethnic minority children who don’t speak Chinese often have trouble finding suitable schools that can help them. Parents often cannot help them with their homework in English or Chinese, and cannot afford tutors (over 70% of ethnic minority workers earn less than $4,000 a month). How you can help: these children need additional tutoring after school, and their parents need tutoring in Cantonese so they can live and work in the community.
About a quarter of Hong Kong’s children live in poverty. This can lead to tense familial and living conditions, a lack of adequate resources for educational expenses, and no disposable income for cultural activities. How you can help: there are lots of opportunities to provide tutoring for children that need extra help in school as well as giving kids the chance to participate in social experiences and outings on the weekends.
There are thousands of dogs abandoned every year in Hong Kong. These dogs will hopefully be adopted, but to increase their chances they need to interact with people on a regular basis as well as get exercise. How you can help: spend an afternoon walking, and playing with, abandoned dogs (and if you find a special one, take him/her home!).
Domestic Migrant Workers
There are over 245,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. They work an average of 16 hours a day, 6 days a week and 24 hours on call. Unfortunately, the number of cases of exploitation, abuse and human rights violation is on the rise. How you can help: Volunteers can help at shelters for these women to provide positive social interaction as well as help them make handicrafts as a therapeutic activity.
Learn more about HandsOn Hong Kong, and how you can be a volunteer, at www.handsonhongkong.org