We’ve all complained about not having enough before – not enough time on the computer; not enough money for the latest iPhone; not enough of your favourite dish at dinner. But for some people, not having enough means something way more serious – not enough food for the family; not enough money to pay the rent on their home; not enough money to spend on basic school supplies.
Statistics from the World Bank in 2013 revealed around 767 million people or roughly 10 per cent of the world’s population are living below the international poverty line and, according to the Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report in 2015, 1,345,000 Hongkongers (around 20 per cent of the population) live in poverty.
There are many charities and campaigns set up around the world to help people living below the poverty line. One such campaign here in the 852 is Sharing for a Cause (SFAC). The annual student-led collection drive, run by local charity Kids4Kids, was set up in 2011. This year marks its seventh anniversary.
SFAC wants to inspire young people in Hong Kong into making a positive impact for impoverished kids. Students collect goods – such as books, stationary, sports equipment and household appliances – from those who have a lot and donate them to those who have little.
This year, Cindy Fung Hoi-cheung, SFAC’s Programme Manager said, the campaign is aiming to have 150 collection points across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories where people can donate their unwanted or unneeded goods – and they’re mainly looking for books.
“We want English storybooks, with themes like friendship, inclusion, equality, kindness, happiness and positivity,” Phoebe Chan Chi-fei, a Year 11 student at Chinese International School and SFAC co-leader said.
Many impoverished young people can’t afford to buy new books. When they do buy them, they’re often exercise books for schoolwork. Very few will have books to read simply for the pleasure of reading. This year’s SFAC campaign will collect storybooks and redistribute them to those who need them most.
“The collection period will run from May 1-31,” Fung says. “We’re hoping to receive 705 boxes worth of donations this year. That’s over 35,000 books.
“They’ll be sorted into categories, such as age level, book condition, and beneficiary site, before being sent off.”
Young Post’s junior reporter Snehaa Senthamilselvan is one of SFAC’s student co-organisers. The Year 12 student from Li Po Chun United World College says that she thinks the campaign is a great way to encourage and foster community spirit in Hong Kong.
Nicole Kuan Man-hei, a Year 11 student from Hong Kong International School, is equally as enthused by the donation drive. “People going about their daily lives don’t realise, or forget, that serious social issues exist.” That’s why, she adds, the SFAC is so vital to Hong Kong – because, with just a few storybooks, many more children in the city will be able to enjoy their childhood a little more.
This seems to be a common sentiment amount the students that make up the SFAC.
Mah Shao-qian, a Year 12 student from Renaissance College, has set aside much of his spare time for the campaign. Shao-qian packs the posters that are sent off to 508 secondary schools in the city, and he keeps track of all the collection points. “I also draft a lot of emails to businesses and people who might be interested in becoming a collection point for donated goods,” he adds.
Finding big businesses that will agree to partner with the campaign is tougher than you’d think, as Chinese International School student Bonnie Lee can attest.
“This programme has taught me a lot – one of the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from this is how to handle rejection. Our team became used to hearing the sound of slammed phones ending a call, calls going straight to voicemail, and people swearing at us,” the Year 13 student says. However, she adds, their hard work paid off in the end. Soon, they hope, books that will brighten up the lives of impoverished children will begin pouring in.
It’s amazing what a difference a small thing like a storybook can make to someone’s life. A lot – just ask students like Phoebe, Snehaa, Nicole, Shao-qian and Bonnie.