The jovial-looking gent sitting in the outdoor garden of the China Coast Community care home tells me how much Hong Kong has changed since he was a young man working in Central as a police officer. Sat beside him, a petite and meticulously-dressed woman who always has a smile on her face reminisces about growing up in Kowloon and taking ferry rides across the harbour, something she doesn’t get to do anymore. There are people living here from all corners of the world who for one reason or another made Hong Kong their home, and others who were born here and never left. They remember a Hong Kong when giant, glittering shopping malls and air conditioning were not omnipresent, and they love to share their stories.
I wouldn’t have met these fascinating individuals, or had the chance to learn about their colourful lives, if it were not for volunteering at this warm and cheery home for the elderly in Kowloon Tong. Newly arrived in Hong Kong and working from home, I soon felt the itch to get out and assimilate myself in local culture and meet new people. By spending a couple of hours a week at China Coast Community, I discovered a different area of the city and its residents, and found the pleasure that comes from helping others who need assistance doing things we take for granted, like eating lunch or reading a beloved book. Along the way I met amazing people, both the care home residents and its dedicated workers, as well as the other volunteers who came in and gave their time. This applies to lots of volunteer experiences, and whether you want to give back, meet new people or find out a bit more about what makes Hong Kong tick, here’s a list of the places where you can make a difference in the city.
Animal lovers with some time to spare from their own pets can be of service to the local SPCA by becoming a “Kennel Keeper”. You’ll be able to get up close with animals by cleaning, feeding and grooming them…and there’s probably room for some play time too. Or help out in animal care support by volunteering as a veterinary assistant, although this is currently only open to veterinary science and nursing students/graduates.
Don’t forget about the little guys – there are several charities in the city catering to animal care, like LAP. The charity helps animals in distress and ensures each one has a safe home. They need volunteers for transporting the little critters to and from veterinary clinics, dog-walking, matching shelter pets with prospective adopters, and more.
The international organisation fighting poverty and injustice employs volunteers for a lot of their work, from providing admin support at their North Point headquarters, to helping out at their second-hand shop in Jardine House. For those wanting to get out and interact more, they also need people to pitch in at their fundraising events in the community like the Oxfam Trailwalker and Oxfam Musical Marathon.
A charity soon celebrating 10 years in the community, HandsOn Hong Kong is a volunteer network with a focus on meeting pressing social needs. They recruit and manage volunteers to take part in activities run by local charities, like helping students learn English or taking care of the day-to-day at a local food bank. The non-profit is seeking English and Cantonese speakers for a variety of roles, which they regularly post on their website.
Interested in nature conservation and preserving Hong Kong’s wetlands? Give your time and energy to the Hong Kong Wetland Park and be a visitor guide or help out with ecological monitoring projects, habitat conservation work and educational events at this popular, and important, ecotourism spot.
Most people around the globe are familiar with the work of the Red Cross and the iconic logo often seen amidst disaster relief areas worldwide. The Hong Kong branch has more than 22,000 volunteers who take part in diverse projects in community service. Caring for mentally and physically challenged students at local schools is one of the ways you can help, or by bringing a dose of happiness to others through the “Red Cross Volunteer Puppet Theatre”.
There are often calls to donate food items to those less fortunate around Christmas and other major holidays, but we tend to forget that the need for food donation is year-long. People’s Food Bank sorts and delivers food for struggling families and individuals throughout Hong Kong and relies on volunteers when it comes to food drives, fundraising and other services. You can donate your time on a short-term or weekly basis.
The AFHK consists of members who have in some way been touched by adoption. They’re always on the lookout for volunteers to assist in the running of events, and are currently looking to fill several coordinator (marketing and social media, membership, children and family events) and translator roles.
The Hong Kong-based organisation deals in global distribution – they collect donated quality goods and send them to people in need, both locally and abroad. They always want help to pack goods, as they get a lot coming in. But there is a range of other opportunities for volunteers of all ages, especially students, who can take part in goods collection, sewing and the odd fix-it job.
For those with a love for books and an interest in reading stories to children, Bring Me A Book gives you a chance to engage in storytelling with the younger set in community centres and libraries across the city. Volunteers are also sought for making protective covers for donated books, as well as helping out with their website and social media platforms.
Nancy Matos is a lifestyle and culture writer from Vancouver, Canada currently based in Hong Kong and London.