Came across a friend’s site–Homeless Connect Toronto when I woke up two Saturdays ago. Reading through her blog set the tone for the volunteering day and got me thinking about the situation in Hong Kong– definitely a place of disparity. She mentioned gentrification, which continuously happens here. Thinking back to when I first moved to HK in middle school, homelesssness and poverty were much more apparent around the city. Now I feel it is compartmentalized and tucked away and the needs and struggles of so many go unnoticed.
Ribbon, fabric and various other crafting goods is what I usually head to Sham Shui Po for. It was an eye opening experience spending the day there volunteering with Hope of the City and the YWCA. Appreciated the opportunity to really see the area and learn more about the community and the efforts of the YWCA to impact their neighbourhood. There are currently around 400,000 people living in Sham Shui Po, which has one of the lowest average household incomes in Hong Kong. ~25,000 are new to Hong Kong, living in the area for 5 years or less and the population of the elderly is ~60,000.
The goals of the day were to connect with those living in the community through home visits and go door to door to contact as many residents in the area to let them know of the existence of the YWCA and raise awareness about the services they provide in the community for the elderly (particularly 75+)–day trips, a place to enjoy the A/C, read the newspaper, watch the telly, special activities at the centre; youth–study rooms, computers, internet access; and families–after school care, free summer programs for kids, toy library.
Our group went to see a grandmother for the home visit. It was lovely chatting to her for an hour or so, just hearing her story and listening to her share about the day to day things. She has a really cute dog that had been abandoned and she took in to care for. She has difficulty walking so hasn’t been able to go to the elderly centre.
The afternoon was spent going door to door in the low-rise flats in the area. Many buildings had around 9 floors and no lifts, which we found was particularly difficult for the elderly living in them. Lower floors sometimes consisted of various businesses/brothels. We located the buildings assigned to us and went floor to floor knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. Partitioned flats–smaller units created within a larger flat are very common here so having several doors beyond the first door made it even more difficult to get in touch with residents. I reckon we went to ~150 flats and were able to speak with those living in 12-15 of them. Talking to our group leader who had done door-door visits previously, she said our success rate of people willing to come to the door and talk to us was actually quite high for the day.
We had a debrief afterwards with all the volunteers and this is what was shared/learned:
- the elderly are lonely and really appreciate just having company and someone to listen to them
- health and mobility are their two main concerns
- families were very friendly and welcoming to hear about the YWCA services
- there is a great need for afterschool programs
- parents, especially moms sacrifice a lot for their kids
- if everyone in the community did come to the centre, there are not enough resources to serve them
- go with a positive attitude and be persistent
TREATS is another organization making an impact in Hong Kong. Their target groups are children, youth and families. Have a look at their website to find out what they’re doing and how you can help.
Let me know if you ever want to go volunteering together next school year.