As you have guessed by now, inspiration is the name of the game, and every Monday I find a GLAMAMAMA whose story or mission is one that NEEDS to be shared. This week I am fortunate enough to have a guest blogger, Mrs Cheryl Wilson Tien. She’s a smart, dedicated, gorgeous social entrepreneur who has created a platform where giving to the needy is as easy as a gifting to your dearest.
Here she is: This week’s GLAMAMAMA MONDAYS: CHERYL WILSON TIEN tells you how to make the CHARITABLE CHOICE.
I have lived in Hong Kong for almost 10 years and am married to local Hong Konger. I love this city and have spent the better part of the last decade singing the praises of Hong Kong to international companies (as part of my full time job) and (on a personal level) essentially anyone who would listen.
- 1.15 million or 17% of Hong Kong residents live in poverty
- 290,000 or 33% of elderly people live in poverty
- Hong Kong’s income disparity is the highest in Asia and one of the highest in the world
- 10,000 stray animals caught and destroyed every year
- In 2011, Hong Kong’s air was only safe to breathe 59 days a year (By W.H.O. standards)
These are alarming statistics.
The straw that broke the camel’s back occurred immediately after the birth of my first daughter. My husband and I were overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family who showered exquisite gifts on us. The problem was that there were so many gifts that we simply did not have the space to store them all! Ideally we wanted family and friends to donate to charity in lieu of gifts but wanted the process to be interactive and fun. Between feeding and changing an absurd number of nappies (as one does in the first few months of having a baby), I tried to identify a fun and interactive charitable gifting platform where the beneficiaries were local charitable organisations addressing the pressing issues on our doorstep. Failing to find anything of the sort in Hong Kong and coupled with my passion for this city, I decided to dedicate myself to this initiative. In July 2010 I took the plunge, quit my full-time job and Charitable Choice was born a few weeks later.
When I mentioned to several people that I intended to set up a new charity platform for local charities, most people suggested I get in touch with Mother’s Choice. They were a pleasure to deal with, in fact they wanted to be a part of the Charity Gift Card concept from the outset, even before we had a website.
Charitable Choice is Hong Kong’s first and only online interactive Charity Gift Card platform, dedicated to raising money for local charities in an original and meaningful way. The idea is simple – the gift giver pays for and designates a donation value as a gift to the recipient, who may then choose a charity on the Charitable Choice website to donate the funds to, making the gift a truly personal one. The platform makes a point of only featuring charity beneficiaries that run programmes in Hong Kong to address the many troubling issues facing our local community.
Overall all those around me have been extremely supportive of my foray into social entrepreneurship and the Charitable Choice concept however with all new ventures there are bound to be obstacles and challenges. The biggest challenge I encountered (and I am certain that all mothers can attest to this) is finding enough hours in the day! I am continuously contacting and meeting with people to introduce this exciting new concept and I also make it a policy to meet with every charity we include on the Charitable Choice platform so that I can see for myself their operations and better understand their programmes and service users.
My first 7 years in Hong Kong I shuttled between my office in Central and home on the south side of Hong Kong Island, and I never truly had the opportunity to ponder in detail let alone experience first-hand the flip side of the glossy Hong Kong lifestyle (except for air quality issues but that is a separate blog in!) until now. These visits have been the most heart-wrenching yet profound part of my job and truly opened my eyes to the grave issues facing our city.
And whilst I am not a Glamamama by any stretch of the imagination, I do have two beautiful daughters that crave quality Mummy time so I have to be mindful of striking the right balance between family commitments and my strong desire to make Hong Kong a better place for them to grow up in.
A major challenge for Charitable Choice has been changing people’s mindset that a gift must only be something tangible for the recipient to consume or retain. For companies in particular, corporate gifts such as pens, USB devices or crystal plaques are very often not what the recipient necessarily wants or needs. Charitable Choice offers a meaningful alternative and we are definitely making some headway particularly with corporates who are more developed with their commitment to sustainability and community involvement.
So far this year we have raised over HK$350,000 for local charities and have high targets set for the upcoming festive season now that the concept has gathered more momentum. Bearing in mind that these funds would have otherwise been spent on gifts that may not have been cherished by the recipient, I personally believe that Charitable Choice is making a difference in the way that Hong Kong residents celebrate special occasions.
My husband often refers to Charitable Choice as my third child and in so many ways it is. It requires constant attention and nurturing to flourish and not one day goes by without me worrying about whether I am doing all that I can to ensure it grows up to be the best that it can be. My ultimate goal for this “third child” is for it to be (1), self-sustainable and (2) a respected charitable gifting platform both locally and regionally. In order to do this we need to raise funds to support the operating costs for Charitable Choice and increase the volume of donations by reaching out to more forward-thinking individuals and corporations. My inkling is that achieving these goals for my third child will be slightly easier than steering my two willful daughters towards aspirations that I have for them!
On a personal level I have insisted on Charitable Choice Gift Cards in lieu of gifts for my elder daughter’s last two birthdays (she just turned 4) as a means to educate her about the local community and helping those less fortunate. She loves sitting in front of the computer and choosing a charity herself, initially attracted the colour of certain logos and then wanting to hear all about how they are helping Hong Kong. Her top 3 favourite charities are Helping Hand (“helping old people”), Mother’s Choice (“helping babies who have no Mummy and Daddy”) and Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society (which little girl is not fascinated by pink dolphins?). She has often asked me to give her toys to “those children in the computer who don’t have any to play with”. So at least I know that Charitable Choice has made a difference to at least one person and since that person is the reason I started on this journey in the first place then it has all been worthwhile!After being exposed to the “other” side of Hong Kong that I barely knew existed two years ago, I still love this city and am proud to call it home. The over 40 local charities featured on the Charitable Choice platform understand and know all-too-clearly what they need to do to improve conditions in our community. Charitable Choice’s role is to support the work of our charity partners by increasing recognition of their valuable services and of course raising much-needed funds.
I am confident that Charitable Choice will succeed given Hong Kong’s strong gift giving culture and reputation as being home to some of the most charitable people in the world. My focus continues to be on creating awareness of Charitable Choice as a new charity gifting concept so that we may offer support to the local charities that we represent and in turn make Hong Kong a better place. Please visit www.charitablechoice.org.hk to make your charitable choice 🙂
Our most exciting awareness project to date is coming up this weekend. Charitable Choice will be hosting an interactive art installation at the Main Concourse on Level 1 of IFC Mall, Central from 1 to 5 December where volunteers will be handing out colourful sheets of stickers to encourage individuals to collectively create a unique mosaic of colours on a giant blank canvas. This exciting community art project is the perfect channel through which to engage and remind people about Charitable Choice gift cards and the charities we benefit, especially around the festive season, not to mention a wonderful experience for young and old. I hope to see you there!