Creating a Caring Community for Volunteers of All Ages

Jan 9, 2019
A family of four participates in HandsOn Hong Kong's 2018 Family Volunteer Day project, upcycling unwanted materials into donated items for community centers.

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” HandsOn Hong Kong, a Points of Light Network affiliate, brings to life these words from Helen Keller – tackling their most pressing social needs by mobilizing and empowering every member of their community to make a difference through volunteer service.

Since its founding in 2007, HandsOn Hong Kong has been working to create service opportunities for every cause and volunteer. Whatever your passion may be, HandsOn Hong Kong makes it easy to search its inclusive volunteer calendar to find service projects for people of all ages. From homelessness, refugee and asylum seeker support, to disability inclusion and food insecurity, the organization is turning every day of the week into an opportunity for individuals and families to give back.

The organization is dedicated to making volunteering more accessible and rewarding in Hong Kong, where research shows that finding new family-friendly volunteer opportunities often feels limited, according to Points of Light’s 2018 Global Volunteerism Journey Report. According to Catherine Dannaoui, head of communications for HandsOn Hong Kong, it is common for charities to prefer adults over children due to assumed physical limitations. The organization is combatting this misconception by pouring more resources and energy into their affiliates’ understanding of the power of family volunteering. With support from The Walt Disney Company, they give awareness talks and share family volunteering opportunities with schools across the community.

“Our youth are the future stewards of the city,” said Catherine. “If we don’t instill in them this stewardship of service, we can’t move forward. We want them to be the next generation of volunteers, and we want family volunteering to be important everywhere.”

Family members turn unwanted textile materials into a large community rug at HandsOn Hong Kong's Pokfulam Family Volunteer Day event.

Volunteers have responded with great support, especially on Family Volunteer Day — a global day of service that celebrates the power of families who work together to improve their communities and neighborhoods. This year, HandsOn Hong Kong led four Family Volunteer Day projects. At their biggest event at Kennedy School in Pokfulam, 180 volunteers upcycled unwanted materials like T-shirts into mats, keychains, potholders, coasters and a large community rug. The textile industry is the second biggest contributor to pollution in Hong Kong, and unwanted materials usually end up in overly populated landfills; thanks to HandsOn Hong Kong, these materials were turned into usable items that were donated to community centers and senior centers.

Each year, HandsOn Hong Kong engages more than 47,000 volunteers, and runs more than 100 volunteer programs each month. It works alongside nonprofit partners and community-minded corporations to create a caring community that gives its time and talent to transform Hong Kong. Opportunities to volunteer with the organization are many and varied, but key family-friendly programs are central to its work.

ImpactHK, is a nonprofit that HandsOn Hong Kong supports with volunteers almost every day of the year. Its mission is to support Hong Kong’s homeless through kindness with the aim of giving them a true second chance — the first step is to reach out to them through “kindness walks.” Every day of the week, up to 10 volunteers hand out water and snacks, and encourage homeless people to go to their local community center to start a plan towards reintegration into society. Volunteers are able to build trust, which is a pivotal step in helping homeless citizens navigate a path towards rehabilitation.

HandsOn Hong Kong also equips volunteers to give back to the elderly. In Hong Kong, one in three people over the age of 65 live in poverty and become more susceptible to depression, anxiety and loneliness. During the winter season, HandsOn Hong Kong connects volunteers with struggling elderly populations through its signature Soup for the Elderly program, spreading warmth and love to seniors through home visits and soup deliveries.

HandsOn Hong Kong volunteers spend time with seniors and deliver homemade soup through the Soup for the Elderly program..

In addition to working alongside community volunteers and nonprofits, HandsOn Hong Kong helps corporations engage in service opportunities through custom volunteer programs. For example, the organization assists L’Oreal Paris with its annual Citizen Day program, a day-long volunteering event across the globe, by bringing numerous service projects in Hong Kong to life. They also connect employees from Fossil Group to schools where they takeover a school for a day and lead art workshops, create hygiene products and other educational activities.

And each year on International Volunteer Day, HandsOn Hong Kong hosts a breakfast to celebrate their volunteers’ efforts, share their values and promote their work among their community. The organization is raising awareness of Hong Kong’s pressing social needs – and ensuring inclusive access to volunteer opportunities, so everyone can take part in improving their community.

“We will do everything we can to empower and equip our community members with the skills they need to be lifted up and succeed,” said Catherine. “We will continue to support every kind of cause you can imagine.”

Madi Donham