Gift of Care for the Elderly

Written by Eunie Jeong

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On the 15th of June at 5 pm, 26 RCHK student volunteers gathered on the Sham Shui Po MTR station. They were assembled together for Hong Kong’s  first food bank of Pass It On. It was organised by the Year 12 students, Kristen Wen, Christy Tam, Natazha Lin and Sabrina Wu. 

The students gave the elderly support by both socialising and distributing food, in particular to those living in the Fu Cheong Estate and struggling financially.

Hong Kong is one of the cities with the biggest wealth gap in the world, and it is estimated that Hong Kong’s richest household earns 44 times more than the poorest.  This problem is yet to be solved, though it has recently seen a slight drop. Sham Shui Po is widely known as the poorest district in Hong Kong, and it houses many elderly. Research shows that the elderly are the most likely to be subject to poverty, as with advanced age come many problems such as declining health and job loss. The South China Morning Post regrettably reported that “One in three elderly Hongkongers lives below the poverty line.” 

The students walked to the local food distribution organization Pei Ho Restaurants they were collaborating with. After collecting supplies, they travelled as a body to the public estate. With bags of fresh fruit and cooked rice, the volunteers were divided up into teams and went from floor to floor, distributing food to the elderly, who mostly live alone, and without caretakers. 

Kristen Wen, one of the organisers, says, “It was hard to organise this, as our Chinese skills were not that good, so it was hard to communicate with the locals.” Also, she added, “To book the food bank, we needed to do it three months prior, and we were supposed to hold the food bank in May, but we missed the deadline.” Fortunately, they were allowed to apply after the deadline and so they could after all hold the food bank, though in June. 

But why all the troubles? Wen continued, “My parents would often say that I was lucky to be born in this family because a lot of people are suffering. Afterwards, with this in mind I saw some people struggling financially day to day.” While she was planning for her Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) project, she decided that she wanted to address the wealth gap in Hong Kong. She had previously noted that international school students usually look to solve “global problems, not local problems that are all around them.” 

Other participants also realised the value of the cause. When asked why he joined the food bank, Denning Kwan, a Year 11 student, said, “We felt this service was meaningful as it helps the elderly that are socially isolated in the society”. This view was commonly voiced by many of the participants. Kwan also added, “Giving out food gave joy to all of us.” The volunteers worked hard, and succeeded in going around quite a few blocks.

After the heart warming experience, some of the participants admitted to having had some fears before meeting the elderly. “I am a shy person, so I was scared beforehand to talk to strangers and socialise,” said Joseph, a student in Year 12. However, these fears quickly disappeared at the gratitude expressed by the elderly. “They were really friendly, and they liked to chat around and compliment each other,” he added. 

This was organised through a CAS project. CAS, though not formally assessed, is an important part of the Diploma Programme. The three main skills students are encouraged to develop is to show initiative, demonstrate perseverance, and focus on problem solving and critical thinking. Many people would agree that organising this project has certainly required the skills above. CAS has led to many projects that benefited the community, such as the collaboration of RCHK with Pass It On food bank. 

The project might have ended, however many students express wishes to continue.  “I hope to do this service again in the future,” said Kwan. In agreement, let’s continue to “gather love, and pass it on to all those in need,” and help fellow members of our community.