Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you are doing currently?
My name is Allan and I’m originally from China, grew up in Canada and recently moved to HK after working in Singapore. I work in the finance industry, but on some evenings and weekends I’m involved in a few NGOs and charitable organizations through HandsOn. Last year, I started volunteering on Tuesday nights at the Hong Kong Red Cross JFK Centre for students with disabilities, which expanded to weekend activities with these students, and then another tutoring program at Chungking Mansions through Christian Action. Most recently I’ve gotten the chance to get involved with serving and supporting the homeless through ImpactHK.
What drives you to serve the community?
Everything I have in life – the chance to grow up in Canada, going to school, getting a job – all began from an act of generosity, from people who had absolutely no reason to do so other than from kindness. From this experience, I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of giving back and paying it forward. With the hope that we can give others who have little, just like I did 30 years ago, a chance at a better life.
What do you believe is the impact of your volunteer work?
When we work with students who have disabilities or are underprivileged, we not only help them with homework, but give them a chance to interact and socialize with different kinds of people. There are so many volunteers out there who do this on a daily basis and their experiences and life lessons are of such value to these children who are in a daily struggle to keep up with those who have more. Narrowing that gap is key and I believe volunteers help close it.
Through helping the homeless I’ve seen some of the most dedicated and passionate volunteers provide so much kindness and support, that it is literally helping homeless get off the streets, integrate back into society, become self-sustainable and very quickly start contributing back to society. Even with so little, many of our homeless or formerly homeless friends are so generous and pay forward to others the little fortune they have, despite the odds and despite the dire situations.
What advice would you have for someone looking to begin their volunteer journey?
Firstly, understand that you don’t need to completely change your life and your schedule to make a difference. It’s amazing how much impact you can have through just one volunteer activity, and one conversation and then one referral to your friends. We were all born to be kind and compassionate to others, so it spreads like wild fire, sometimes with just a simple gesture. Check out the HandsOn calendar and find something that fits for you. At the very least, it will help open your own eyes and appreciate what you already have. And most likely, you will make your mark on your community and improve other people’s lives.
Can you share an interesting story or touching moment you have had while volunteering with HandsOn?
One Saturday at the tutoring program for children of refugees and asylum seekers at Chungking Mansions, a student asked me to help him with Liberal Studies, since he had an exam coming up and that was the subject he was weakest in. Not having any background in this, I opened up his textbook and saw the subject was about the evolution of China from the revolution to modern times. Fortunately, this is what me and my entire family experienced first-hand, so I was excited to tell him about it. We had an amazing session and went way over our time! The following week, the same student told me he got the best mark in his class in liberal studies. Not only was this extremely rewarding, I could see first-hand that, as volunteers, we aren’t just there to fill space or hang out. We can make a real difference day in and day out. Once you recognize that, you will want to do this every opportunity you get!