Senior CID, a social enterprise that enriches retired citizens‘ lives by offering them pet-sitting jobs, has proven to be a big success.
The enterprise was founded by Derek Pang and Melanie Leung, who worked together with the SPCA and began training retired Hongkongers to become pet sitters. This not only gives them a way to earn money, but also helps enrich their lives.
It goes to show that you can make a difference in the community even if you’re young - Leung and Pang only graduated from university in the summer of 2013.
“Hong Kong’s ageing population has increased,” Leung says. “We don’t want society to think of retired citizens as a burden. Instead, we should focus on their abilities.”
She was inspired by her retired father, who made her realise the elderly are still capable of making valuable contributions to society.
After winning the First Runner-up and the Most Popular award from the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge, Leung quit her job as a Young Post reporter to make her dream a reality. However, running an organisation isn’t easy, and the young founders have already faced a number of challenges.
“Very few citizens in Hong Kong know of and accept this kind of service,” explains Pang. “Many are uncomfortable with the idea of letting our pet-sitters go into their homes."
He believes it’s time that Hongkongers started warming up to the idea.
“Pet-sitting services are really common in foreign countries.They are popular in part because of the benefits to the pets , as they don’t have to stay in pet hotels with other strange animals. We give them delicate care and allow them to continue their normal routine within their homes.”
Senior CID’s next big problem is finding enough staff. Their services include a meet-and-greet which requires Melanie, Derek and the pet-sitters to go to clients’ homes to learn about their pets. “There are only three of us, and we often have to travel long distances to satisfy all of our clients,” explains Leung. “Once, we had to travel from Sai Wan Ho to Sheung Shui then back to Tuen Mun, all in one day!”
Although Senior CID works primarily with senior volunteers, they welcome teenage ones as well. Pang recalled organising an event with the SPCA, which would never have happened without the teen volunteers who helped set-up, introduce and arrange activities and paint posters.
Although some clients may be concerned with senior citizens’ ability to properly look after their pets, Pang said all pet-sitters must attend training programmes held by the SPCA and Senior CID.
The programme includes 20-30 hours of lectures and a further 30 hours of practice taking care of abandoned dogs at the SPCA.
“Because of my passion for animals and my flexible schedule, I joined the Senior CID once I saw the poster on newspaper,’’ says Alex Leung, a pet-sitter who has been taking care of Kero, a one-year-old Border Collie, since March.
CID looks after cats, too!
“Having responsibility is what I have enjoyed the most, and Senior CID has given me a lot of support in my pet sitting work,” adds Alex.
Kero is a young, energetic dog, which meant Alex had to put a lot of time into training him to not chase after vehicles and other dogs. Senior CID also helped him with this.
Alex adds that joining the Senior CID gave him the chance to meet more people with similar interests. In particular, he has formed strong friendships with Melanie, Derek and his clients.
“We have a WhatsApp group with the founders and the other pet-sitters to help us communicate with each other,” explains Alex. “We all have the same objective - which is to strive to take care of the pets to the best of our abilities.”
In the future, Senior CID hopes to help a wide range of retired citizens and pets, and provides a more developed training programme which would include medical care.
Besides helping the retired citizens financially, Senior CID thinks taking care of pets is not just a job, but a life-changing and valuable experience.