Inspiration comes in all forms. Last week, under the dreary skies of Hong Kong I sought the need to contribute. I wasn’t sure how, what or when but I felt a yearning to give. Charity has always been a part of our family’s mandate however, as a parent I find myself wanting to ensure that I contribute to something with integrity. I wanted something that connected me with what I was doing.
Why? Because, I’m a survivor. I feel empowered to make decisions now that perhaps I couldn’t before. Some call it age, some call it wisdom, and I call it experience. With this invaluable experience, my choices are more discerning than ever. I want to see that my contribution (whether it be money, effort or time) can make a difference. My associations have always been local. Despite the glitz and the glamour of Hong Kong, we have a very real problem in our own backyard.
“According to the Hong Kong Council of Social Services, 1.26 million residents – 18% of the population – are living in poverty. Furthermore, the United Nations Development Program’s 2009 report found Hong Kong to have a Gini coefficient of 0.43, the widest gap between the rich and the poor out of the 38 “very high human development” economies in the world. The Gini coefficient is an international measurement of income inequality, ranging from zero to 1, with zero referring to total equality.
Just steps from the well-dressed young professionals drinking in Lan Kwai Fong or dining in Soho you’ll see octogenarians bent over, scavenging trash bins for recyclables, folding down cardboard, and hauling their living up and down the slopes of the entertainment district in Asia’s third-richest city. It is almost crippling to behold and immediately sobering.
In this free-market, service-driven economy, the clerk at the 7-Eleven convenience store may have been earning as little as HK$20 (US$2.56) per hour before the government implemented a minimum wage of HK$28 (US$3.59) per hour in May of this year.
Such low wages don’t stretch very far here; the city is home to some of the world’s most densely populated areas and also some of its highest rents – Savills Plc’s Global Cities Survey found Hong Kong housing to be the most expensive in the world. For some, “cage homes” renting at around US$200/month are an option. Tiny cubicles are sectioned off from a single-family apartment using wooden planks and wire mesh, stacked 2 or 3 high, and big enough only for a single mattress and a recumbent occupant.
These cage homes, tucked inside aging buildings in Kowloon, represent the other Hong Kong – the Hong Kong removed from the flush of money, chauffeured cars, Michelin-starred restaurants, and Chanel handbags. With the city’s non-interventionism, minimal social welfare, and 7.9% inflation, there is an immense challenge for the city’s most at-risk in achieving a basic standard of living.” — excerpt from Grit and Glamour Collide in Hong Kong | The Poverty Line.
I came across http://www.givingbread.org through founder Celene Loo (Oh what an inspirational woman, but that will be another post!) Celene founded giving bread in 2010 with “the mission to bridge the gap between food wastage on one hand and hunger on the other. Everyday, massive amounts of food are discarded by restaurants, individual homes and hotels. Yet we are also seeing hunger in affluent cities like Hong Kong. Rising food prices and growing aging population further escalate problems of poverty. In fact, according to United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the gap between the rich and the poor in Hong Kong is the HIGHEST in the world.”
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” – Matthew 25:35
With this mission in mind, giving bread takes bread donations, and distributes bread to caged homes, elderly homes and the homeless. See their FB page Giving Bread.
This past Thursday I had the privilege of joining Celene and other like-minded glamamamas to pack and distribute bread. I was elated to see that I was joining my friend Charmaine Lee Wong (who is one of the owners the Classified Group and also a bread donor) at Classified Restaurant Happy Valley. Also giving bread, was volunteer veteran, Rita Wong http://www.chopsticksdiary.com (fellow blogger, but much more experienced and excellent. Please follow her!)
My BFF Candice, of Triple O and Yomama fame, also joined us. We were so happy!
Here is our production line. Slicing, Packing and wrapping.
Celene Loo, Rita Wong, Charmaine Lee, Sharie Ross and Candice Suen, ready, wrapped and packed. Let’s Give Bread!
Celene was an incredible “leader” (great EQ and IQ… hahaha following from last post!) She led us to an elderly home in Causeway Bay. To be honest I didn’t know that they had elderly homes in Causeway Bay, but Celene warned us that despite the location, usually the conditions of these elderly homes were quite minimal.
I wasn’t sure of what to expect, except that I had a bag full of bread to share. Armed with bread and a smile, we continued onwards and upwards into a rickety old building in the midst of causeway bay. The conditions were not those of the western world. They were humble to say the least, and usually 3 or 4 shared a small room, and hence very little, if any privacy at all. But despite the close quarters, the seniors in these homes were welcoming. The nurses showed enormous gratitude for our visit (and were obviously old pals with Celene, who dedicates much of her free time to giving bread.) I was awed and humbled by their gratitude. I felt undeserving especially since I was the one that felt the fulfillment.
I was able to meet and greet these nonagenarians, who welcomed us with open and frail arms.
Here are photos of me and my two new friends. The lady/ por por (Chinese term for grandmother) tucked in her bed was sleeping when we walked in, but garnered all the strength and energy in her frail body to say hello and sit up to show that she was grateful and happy to see us.
This por por exuded such pride when she showed us photos of her family. So I asked if we could take a photo, and I promised her I would bring it back upon next visit!
I look happier than she does! I want to take my children with me, and teach them compassion, gratitude, giving, and sharing by example.
I urge you all to partake in a real experience of giving and sharing. Nothing is more fulfilling. Let us not just be passive in charitable givings but also active!
I can not wait until my next http://www.givingbread.org adventure. I had better remember the photos!