HandsOn Hong Kong Launches Social Enterprise to Employ People with Disabilities

May 23, 2016
HandsOn Hong Kong's "Fruit For Good" initiative employs intellectually disabled delivery assistants to deliver fresh fruit to offices on a weekly basis.

In Hong Kong, people with disabilities are often not visible in the community. A lack of understanding and accessibility in the city has left people with disabilities somewhat shunned from the general public. Some 2 percent of Hong Kong’s population has an intellectually disability and these individuals are often left out of the workforce due to a lack of appropriate job opportunities.

With this in mind, HandsOn Hong Kong developed an innovative social enterprise to increase the integration of intellectually disabled adults into society, while also facilitating healthy eating habits in the workplace. The initiative employs intellectually disabled delivery assistants to deliver fresh fruit to offices on a weekly basis.

“Fruit For Good is unlike anything we have done since our inception in 2007,” says Shaun Bernier, founder and board chair of HandsOn Hong Kong, which is an affiliate of the Points of Light HandsOn Network. “Given the lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities in our community, we sought to find a creative solution and one that could also engage our volunteers and the business community.”

To test the effectiveness of Fruit For Good, a pilot was conducted in January with 14 companies near Hong Kong’s central business district participating. Four delivery assistants were hired and seven HandsOn Hong Kong volunteers played a key role in helping them deliver the fruit, and liaise with drivers and participating companies.

HandsOn Hong Kong's "Fruit For Good" initiative has been successful on multiple fronts, addressing a societal need and engaging both the volunteer and business communities.

Many companies were enthusiastic about the initiative, particularly to be part of an innovative solution to address a pressing social issue – in this case addressing employability of intellectually disabled adults in Hong Kong.

“During the pilot, our staff looked forward to the fruit deliveries each week,” says Vinny Lo, assistant to the president at Montblanc, one of the participating companies. “Many of them enjoy eating fruits, and they appreciated the opportunity to help the disadvantaged while having a healthy snack. It’s definitely a meaningful initiative.”

The delivery assistants also benefited, according to occupational therapist Tim Kwan.

“Fruit For Good was a valuable opportunity for our client to gain work experience in a supportive environment,” says Kwan, who works with one of the delivery assistants at Caritas Lok Mo Integrated Vocational Training Centre. “Not only did he gain practical work skills, but he also developed friendships with his colleagues and volunteers from the initiative. He is now better prepared to pursue similar jobs in the future.”

The initiative also provides HandsOn Hong Kong with a new potential funding stream. Fruit For Good received seed funding from Hong Kong-based Operation Santa Claus. HandsOn Hong Kong hopes to see the initiative become financially sustainable within the next year, in order to continue to support Fruit For Good and the organization’s volunteering programs.

Following the success of and positive feedback received from the pilot, HandsOn Hong Kong is now recruiting companies to participate in the official launch of Fruit For Good, with deliveries beginning in April. To find out more about Fruit For Good, please contact Liana Chan, social enterprise manager of HandsOn Hong Kong at [email protected].  

The week of May 23-27, 2016, we are excited to engage with corporate and civil society leaders in Hong Kong. Board Chairman Neil Bush and CEO Tracy Hoover will participate in a meeting, sponsored by Hilton Worldwide, that will convene more than 50 members of the Points of Light Corporate Service Council around the theme of “Inspiring and Accelerating the Impact of Corporate Volunteering in Asia.” In the days that follow, more than 20 leaders from Points of Light’s network of innovative volunteering organizations from nine countries in Asia will meet to share strategies and successful approaches for mobilizing changemakers, building nonprofit capacity through volunteerism and partnering with companies in the region. These meetings are being hosted by HandsOn Hong Kong, one of Points of Light’s most inspiring international affiliates. 

Amanda Knowles