The AmCham Charitable Foundation, in partnership with the American Women’s Association (AWA), provides five Hong Kong-based charities with charitable grants in support of philanthropic causes dedicated to the underprivileged and needy as a way of giving back to the community
By Kenny Lau
LoveXpress Foundation Limited
Lovexpress Foundation Ltd is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 2013 and registered as charity in 2015. It aims to promote social harmony and inclusion among other social enterprises, welfare initiates and commercial sectors in Hong Kong and to support the needy by encouraging synergy among small- and medium-sized non-profit organizations.
In other words, it is a mutual supporting platform helping to promote charity marketing by connecting people and organizations and by “nurturing love and social integration in the community of Hong Kong through a collaborative platform with partners from the welfare and commercial sectors,” says Noel Lam, Vice Chairman of Lovexpress Foundation.
“Currently most welfare or charity services are operating in pillars or are largely focusing on the needs of individuals, but support for their family, their network or the utilization of social resources might be insufficient,” Lam explains. “Without a holistic approach, it often leads to a disintegration of resources and crippled services.”
“The idea is to help smaller non-profit institutions promote their work and integrate their resources, thereby creating increased synergy and maximizing the services provided to the beneficiaries.”
In recent years, LoveXpress has been focusing on serving the autistic community through promoting social awareness, building families supportive network and launching career development programs. “To do that, we’ve engaged various stakeholders, namely parents of the beneficiary, professional services providers, academia, commercial sectors and volunteers,” Lam points out.
“Our emphasis on an integrated approach in services delivery has had good results, and we have had self-generated initiatives from parents to explore and appreciate the uniqueness of their autistic children,” she says. “Throughout the process, we’ve seen hope sparkle among these families, with a higher level of confidence and a willingness to venture into an unfamiliar area, as a result of growing awareness, acknowledgement and empowerment.”
Justice Centre Hong Kong
Initially established in 2007 and re-launched in 2014, Justice Centre Hong Kong is a domestic NGO working to protect the rights of refugees, survivors of torture, human trafficking and forced labor, running on a shoestring budget of just HK$4.5 million to assist over 650 people seeking protection in Hong Kong each year.
“Refugees we assist come from countries such as Yemen, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Egypt and Pakistan,” says Melanie McLaren, Head of Fundraising and Development at Justice Centre Hong Kong. “All refugees are screened to identify their immediate needs and the merits of their protection claim, to ensure we prioritize our limited resources to assist the most vulnerable.”
“The long-term impact of our services is that the needs of refugees and their families are met holistically, and they have a significantly better chance of their protection claims being accepted, enabling refugee families to start a new life in a third country. Without support, they risk having their protection claims dismissed and they face forcible repatriation to face torture, persecution or even death in their countries of origin.”
Refugees in Hong Kong only have access to emergency medical care, and can find themselves homeless and without food when their request for government welfare assistance is still in process after filing their protection claim. And they have no right to work even if their protection claims are accepted, and must survive on food coupons worth HK$40 per day and HK$1,500 monthly rental allowance.
This rarely permits refugees to live in suitable accommodation; rather, they are pushed to the fringes of the city and live in poverty. “It means refugees in Hong Kong face serious challenges recounting the traumatic events which they have experienced, in a linear and legally coherent manner. This can have a hugely negative and irrevocable impact on the outcome of their protection claim.”
Refugees in Hong Kong have fled persecution, sexual and gender-based violence, rape and torture. They may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), chronic anxiety or suicidal thoughts, McLaren points out.
“At times, refugee women go without medical care for issues such as reproductive health, and they often live with debilitating mental health problems. Without families or community support, refugee women can be extremely isolated and have great difficulty having even their most basic needs met, resulting in feelings of extreme helplessness and disempowerment.”
In 2016, Justice Centre has assisted more than 650 refugee men, women and children; over 120 torture survivors received intensive legal and psychosocial support in 2016; and 14 of the 33 successful cases of protection claims in Hong Kong were assisted by Justice Centre.
Chances of refugees’ protection claims being accepted are nearly 50 times higher if they receive intensive legal and psychosocial support from Justice Centre where over 500 volunteer caseworkers and interpreters have received training since 2007.
Integrated Brilliant Education Trust
The Integrated Brilliant Education Trust (IBET) was founded in 2014 as a registered charity to provide educational support to Hong Kong’s underprivileged and marginalized ethnic minority students. The goal is to empower these children with the requisite educational life-skills needed to blossom and integrate into Hong Kong’s mainstream society.
“The underprivileged ethnic minority children have somehow fallen through the gaps for no fault of their own,” says CEO & Co-founder of IBET Manoj Dhar. “Having been born and grown up in Hong Kong, this is home for them. However, due to the language barrier, they are neither able to fit in here nor are they able to fully immerse themselves in their respective native countries.”
“They need support to fully integrate in the mainstream society and become an asset to Hong Kong. By providing high educational support in the Chinese language to assist students in their ongoing education, it helps with their progress of learning in school and their seamless integration into the local workforce.”
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” Dhar explains. “Equipping the children who are the future of tomorrow with language skills and a good foundation in all subjects will empower them for life. Our vision is to have an inclusive society where everyone, irrespective of their nationality, gets a chance to build a bright future.”
IBET aims to equip and encourage them to pursue and complete studies in local schools and tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. Since becoming operational in June 2015, it has provided tutorial support to well over 300 underprivileged ethnic minority students of various age levels – from kindergarten to secondary school – in classes six days a week.
Students have benefitted immensely from educational trips to the Hong Kong Science Museum, Kadoorie Farms and Botanical Gardens, Hong Kong Wetland Park, and Chinese New Year Fair at Victoria Park. As participants in the Social Integration Program, children are prepared well in advance to communicate in Cantonese during these trips and avail of the rare opportunities to practice their Chinese language skills in a public environment.
“Such out-of-classroom experiences ensure language and cultural immersion and their integration into Hong Kong’s social fabric,” Dhar believes. “In just about 2.5 years, we have witnessed students winning trophies for academic excellence, going from a lower to an upper band school based on their grades or even being able to get passing marks in Chinese which was previously impossible.”
“The joy, the boost in confidence and the glimmer of hope in their eyes and a resolve to have a better future is what IBET is achieving,” he adds. “I am sure that with the right skills, they will be finally able to break out of the cycle of poverty they have been stuck in for generations.”
Project Concern Hong Kong
Project Concern Hong Kong was set up by Dr. James Turpin in 1961 to provide medical service on a floating clinic to those people living in boats and other charitable service to the sick and poor. The first medical clinic began operation in the Walled City of Kowloon in the late 1960s while the first dental clinic was set up in Sau Mau Ping in 1973 to serve the low-income community.
The mobile dental service was launched in 1979, and the current fleet of vehicles are of the fourth generation. In 1985, Project Concern was locally incorporated and registered as a non-profit organization; today it continues with seven estate dental clinics, three mobile dental vehicles and one outreach dental team, filling a service gap in the community for more than 45,000 patients each year whom include the elderly, low-income individuals, ethnic minority, and the mentally challenged.
“Those with low incomes are simply much less able to afford private dental service,” says Babe Chan, Executive Director of Project Concern. “The government provides dental service to civil servants, their dependants and civil servant pensioners, but services are limited to the public at designated clinics for pain relief and extraction only.
Furthermore, only primary school children can benefit from basic and preventive dental care provided by the government in a scheme which excludes kindergarten and secondary school students, Chan notes. The Healthcare Voucher Scheme and the Community Care Fund Elderly Dental Assistance Programme only subsidize eligible low-income elders for dental treatment.
The average number of teeth among the elderly in Hong Kong was 17 in 2001, and it went up to 19.3 in 2011. About 6 percent of the elders is “edentulous” (no teeth) – far below the WHO concept “80/20,” or keeping 20 or more teeth by the age of 80, Chan points out. “We hope our service would also raise the level of self-awareness about oral hygiene in the community.”
As such, Project Concern partnered with the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Dentistry to organize a series of “Love Teeth Days” across various districts of Hong Kong, namely Tung Chung, Shatin, Tsz Wan Shan and Tin Shui Wai. HKU professors, dentists and dental students were onsite to provide oral health screening and immediate treatment such as simple extraction and pain relief.
In 2015, more than 500 people participated in games, Q&A counters and education booths of each “Love Teeth Day,” and roughly 100 adults and 100 children received free oral health screening, dental treatment and fluoride treatment.
In 2016, it continued with the Jockey Club Smiley Action Programme funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. The program not only included free oral health screening and on-site treatment but also dental sponsorship for the disadvantaged, a “Smiley Action” ambassador scheme and a poster design competition – all to promote oral hygiene to the public.
In the early 1960s, there was an increasing number of cerebrally damaged infants surviving to childhood in Hong Kong, but there was also a lack of facilities in the community caring for these children. In 1963, Dr. Elaine Field, a professor in Paediatrics at the University of Hong Kong, initiated to form a committee with the mission of providing spastic children with special education and care.
The Hong Kong Association for the Spastic Children, with a seed grant of GBP1,500 from the Spastics Society of England, was subsequently formed, starting a specialized service with limited resources. “We set up the first teaching class for nine cerebral palsied children by borrowing a room in the headquarters of The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong,” notes Lo Siu Fai, Manager of SAHK (current name of the association).
Later in 1967, it expanded to include services for adults and was renamed “The Spastics Association of Hong Kong,” and in 1976 it was incorporated as a limited company. In 2008, it officially became SAHK, signifying a determination to “Succeed and Advance.”
Today, SAHK is a dedicated provider of a wide range of rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities so that they could realize their full potential, enhance their independency and integrate into the society, Lo points out. “We provide four core services, and they are dedicated to supporting children and family, special education, adults and the community.”
“Children and Family Support Service” provides educational and therapeutic service to children with special needs, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), learning difficulties, developmental delays and physical disabilities. It aims to induce and develop children’s potentials in various aspects while providing support to their families or caretakers.
“Special Education Service” consists of three special schools providing primary to secondary mainstream and adapted curricula for some 350 children with physical or other disabilities as a nurturing ground for their “moral, intellectual, physical, social and aesthetic development.”
“Adult Service” provides 1,800 places for persons with disabilities at the age of 15 or above in hostel care, rehabilitation training and vocational rehabilitation services. It focuses on enhancing their self-care ability and community integration through training of living and social skills, interest nurturing, and development of vocational skills.
“Community Support Service” is a source of rehabilitation and support services for persons with different disabilities in the community. They include home-based rehabilitation, day care and training, transitional residential care, rehabilitation seating design and manufacture as well as wheelchair repair.
“With the needs of those it serves at heart since 1963, we’ve been successful in developing services that are diverse and comprehensive,” Lo says. “We believe that persons with disabilities are able to realize their full potential, maximize their independence and self-reliance, and become participating members of society.”