'It's great to help others'

'It's great to help others'

King George V School’s students help lift the spirits of refugees at an annual Christmas party

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Oorja Goel (left) and Natasha Henricus serve guests at the King George V School's Christmas party.
Oorja Goel (left) and Natasha Henricus serve guests at the King George V School's Christmas party.
Photo: Edmond So
Eighteen-year-old Thana (not her real name) is sitting quietly as she makes a colourful bead bracelet. She smiles as she threads more beads on a cord with two other teenage refugees at a workshop with a group of students from King George V School.

This is the second year Thana has come with her family to the workshop, which forms part of the school's fourth annual Christmas Refugee Party. "It's nice. I like the party," she says and smiles again.

This year's party was attended by 282 refugees, including 170 children, who have all fled their home countries and ended up in Hong Kong.

Thana came to Hong Kong with her parents and three younger siblings from Yemen two years ago. Her father is an asylum seeker, who is waiting for the UN to approve his application to go to live and work in Canada.

The party included many events for young children, such as the chance to meet Santa Claus, ball games and dancing. All members of the refugee families took home an item of clothing from a selection donated by students and their parents. The school also provided a buffet, plus food hampers containing extra food items and toiletries for each family.

The event was organised by Natasha Henricus, a Year 12 student, who is chairperson of KGV's charity committee. "I want to make this a special event for everyone who comes along," Natasha, 16, says.

"Many of these refugees are educated and were living normal lives until the day something happened in their countries and they were forced to leave. Everything they had was taken away.

"Hong Kong is a rich city and we have so much. We should obviously give what we can to those people in need who have so little.

"Charity is something important to me; my parents have brought me up to believe we should give back to others. And my school provides lots of opportunities for us to do so.

"Everyone at the school loves to take part. We had more than 100volunteers and had to turn some people down."

One volunteer, Oorja Goel, helped to organise a dance activity for younger children. "It has given me such a lot of satisfaction knowing that I can give something to them," says Oorja, who is also a Year 12 student.

"We've all tried to create happy moments for the children through dance. It wasn't their choice to be refugees in Hong Kong; they deserve so much better in life.

"Through music, we hope to bring them the joy of Christmas and make them feel special."

KGV is proud of its students and the school's charitable tradition. "Charity at KGV is not just about donating money, but about educating people to think beyond themselves, and use all their time and resources to help others," says Kirrily Foley, head of charity at the school. "Ultimately, we want our students to be good people, who are ethical, thoughtful and caring.

"My hope is that the students learn to be caring and charitable for their whole lives."

Back in the school hall, Thana and her family are enjoying the buffet of hot food, desserts - and colourful cupcakes.

Like most teenagers, she has a Christmas wish. "I want a smartphone," she says with a bigger smile than usual, while looking down at the old mobile phone her father has given her.

Yet Thana's long-term dreams have nothing to do with materialistic things. "I hope to study in London and meet my aunties there," she says.

"And I want my father to be granted the right to work here in Hong Kong."


You might also like:

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- Christmas is just around the corner, and there are still plenty of ways for you to help make the holidays better for someone in need. Check out ideas from Operation Santa Claus 2013

- Despite its riches, Hong Kong has its fair share of serious social issues. But there are plenty of ways young people can make – and are making – a difference

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