One family’s effort to give back to the community…
This month, we’re spotlighting The Amber Foundation, a family-run foundation whose mission is to provide support for a variety of underserved communities in Hong Kong and across South Asia. The locally-based charity was founded in 2011 and has since been doing a lot of good in the city. Not only has it been working to reduce waste, but also set up a scholarship and mentoring programme for young women from ethnic minority backgrounds and runs several educational workshops annually.
Originally started by local entrepreneurs Elizabeth Thomson and Kishore Sakhrani, the foundation has grown to be a full family effort run by them and their children, James and Simone Thomson-Sakhrani. We spoke to James, The Amber Foundation’s director, to learn more about the charity’s two major projects and what we can do to help.
Tell us about your charity. What does The Amber Foundation do?
We run several programmes in Hong Kong that focus on environmental and educational issues, and we provide financial support to educational initiatives in Hong Kong, India, and Canada – all places where our family has roots. Our objective is to give back to the societies from which we’ve gotten so much.
The Amber Foundation started with the collection, repacking and distribution of toiletry kits, using donated hotel toiletries and airline amenity kits, thereby rescuing them from ending up in landfills. We repack them into men and women’s kits and they’re distributed to organisations that support street sleepers, the homeless, women in shelters, refugees and the elderly.
Since the beginning, the response from the Hong Kong community has been overwhelming. We currently have 16 collection points across Hong Kong and Macau, and the process of repacking and distributing has been partly outsourced to a local partner to keep up with the increasing supply.
We’re now averaging about 5,000 kits a year, though this year may prove to be a bit harder to source donations. We also occasionally help distribute all sorts of products that companies are seeking to pass along. Most recently, we got boxes and boxes of makeup that went to women’s groups all around the city, providing hundreds of underserved women with a small and unexpected surprise.
In 2018, we set up a scholarship and mentoring programme for young, female university students from ethnic minority backgrounds in Hong Kong. The EMPOWER programme aims to help talented and capable young women in the city who would otherwise not get the opportunities they deserve. We work with them to build their business networks to promote career success and break the barriers that keep these women invisible in the business world.
The programme runs five workshops a year in which professional trainers and the mentees are split into small groups run by volunteer business or professional women. Since 2018, the programme has grown from 10 to 22 young women annually, from a wide variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds around Hong Kong.
Why should we care?
For our Environmental programme, we tackle both environmental and hygiene issues. The programme reduces the amount of waste from the unnecessary disposal of perfectly good airline amenity packs and hotel toiletries, and also provide basic hygiene supplies to people who might not have easy access to them. Without our intervention, all of these items would just wind up in the landfill.
With our EMPOWER programme, we aim to promote racial inclusivity in Hong Kong and encourage employers to see the benefits of diversity, which is why we work with young women and the broader business community to help them find internships and jobs in their fields they’re interested in. Being successful, these young women will be able to help their families develop a more stable financial base and help break the cycles of poverty from which many of them come.
These are issues that have been important for a long time but have more recently come into prominence. Whether you’d like to see us all throwing less into the landfill or believe that people should be given the tools for success no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, or religion, we’d like to believe that we’re a group that is helping to make that happen.
How can we help?
For our Environmental project, scouring your bathroom cabinets for hotel toiletries or airline amenity packs and donating them at any of our collection points around the city would be a massive help. Your corporate or social groups may be interested in running their own collection drives. If you’re in the airline or hotel industries, you can help open the doors to your organisations so we can rescue these used items directly from the source.
For EMPOWER, we’re always looking for connections to women in the corporate, business and professional worlds to serve as sponsors, speakers, or networking contacts. For women who want to be even more involved, we’re also always looking for group leaders, mentors, and role models for these amazingly talented and often overlooked young women.
Finally, just spreading the word is amazingly helpful. A lot of people are pleasantly surprised when they find out what we’re doing because they know the perfect person for EMPOWER or have been hoarding toiletries for years and didn’t know what to do with them. We’re always super grateful to our friends and supporters who spread the word in person or on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms.
Editor’s Note: Charities are constantly looking for volunteers, donations and support – and they need it now more than ever. To help them during this difficult time, we’re putting a spotlight on a different charity each month. If you’re a charity, or know of one that could use a shout-out, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] and we’ll try our best to feature them in one of our upcoming Sassy Supports!
All images courtesy of The Amber Foundation.