"I don’t know anybody!"
It’s a common cry from newly arrived expats. If you have no friends in town, and it’s hard to meet the neighbours, then one way out of isolation is to join a club of some sort.
There are hundreds of associations covering all sorts of interests – professional groups, hobby clubs, national associations for people with shared home countries, chambers of commerce, networking groups – and then there are charitable organizations which need volunteers.
Here we look at some associations which you can join and help out at the same time. The shared experience should help you build a whole new group of friends in Hong Kong.
Based in an old British Army compound near Tuen Mun’s Gold Coast, Crossroads is a non-profit group which takes Hong Kong’s quality second-hand goods and redistributes them to people in need, both locally and internationally.
Their warehouse currently holds household furniture, office furniture and classroom furniture, clothing, bedding and fabric supplies, computers and electrical items, household goods, stationery, books and educational toys, all of which will find a useful home somewhere.
As an example, a school for nomadic children in Western China needed bunks to provide accommodation, as its students could not live at home when their parents were on the move. It just happened that Chek Lap Kok airport was closing its construction facilities at the time, and dispensing with 500 bunk beds.
Similarly, an orphanage on Hainan Island needed to furnish two apartments for its staff. Just at that moment, a Hong Kong landlord called to say that she was closing down two apartments which had been recently furnished. The timing was perfect.
Crossroads needs volunteers to fill many roles: sorting goods, doing repair work, loading pallets, manning reception, taking photos, doing fundraising and so on. They don’t mind how many hours a week you can offer.
Community Advice Bureau
The CAB is an English-speaking service offering free, impartial advice on any subject relating to living and working in Hong Kong. It is staffed by a team of volunteers who answer questions by phone or email. Referrals are made for queries requiring more professional advice, be it legal, medical or psychological.
Volunteers are needed for all parts of their operation. They ask that members of the telephone team have been resident in Hong Kong for two years or more, but they also need less experienced people to help keep their database up to date.
Riding for the Disabled Association
The RDA runs weekly horse riding lessons for disabled children and adults, operating out of Jockey Club riding schools in Pokfulam, Tuen Mun and Sheung Shui. Riders have a wide range of disabilities, including Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, blindness and autism. Riding offers a sense of freedom and personal dignity that might otherwise be hard to achieve, and pupils also experience the pleasure of riding and the discipline involved in learning to control a horse.
Participants in the RDA’s annual dressage competition have gone on to represent Hong Kong at the World Dressage Championships for Disabled Riders.
Demand for lessons far outstrips supply and the RDA welcomes volunteers of any age or background. Riding experience or knowledge of horses is an advantage, but is not essential. In fact, training is provided. The group needs volunteers to help with riding lessons, but also behind the scenes on the administrative side.
Oxfam Hong Kong
Oxfam is an international agency which has been active in Hong Kong since 1976. It works to alleviate famine, poverty and suffering across the world. It needs volunteers to help with fundraising, admin work and organizing activities.
For instance, the group organizes the well-known Trailwalker charity hike every year. Volunteers are needed before, during and after the event to help with a multitude of tasks. This year’s event takes place in November.
These organizations act as a global network of community volunteers, operating humanitarian and educational programmes, and holding dinners and other social networking activities. Their ultimate aim is world understanding and peace. Members are typically professionals and business owners.
There are around 48 clubs in Hong Kong and Macau. Meetings take place once a week, in a set location.
The Rotary Club of Kowloon Golden Mile bills itself as the liveliest and friendliest in Hong Kong. It even has an unofficial motto: "Let’s help the needy in our community but, hey, there’s no reason why we can’t have a truckload of fun while we’re doing it!" Through fundraising activities, the club has helped finance initiatives such as free medical checkups for the elderly and earthquake relief operations.
Similar to the Rotary Clubs, these groups dedicate themselves towards service to the community. There are seven branches in Hong Kong. Causes supported include educational and environmental programmes.
Christina Noble Children’s Foundation
The CNCF is dedicated to helping children in need of medical care, nutrition, education, vocational training or job placement, and to the protection of children at risk of exploitation. Founded by an Irish woman who was herself subject to abuse as a child, the foundation operates mainly in Vietnam and Mongolia.
You can join the Hong Kong CNCF fundraising committee in Wan Chai and help to organize events and publicity.
- Volunteer Movement: http://www.volunteering-hk.org/
- Ho Sum: http://www.ho-sum.com/
- Crossroads Foundation: http://www.crossroads.org.hk/
- Community Advice Bureau: http://www.cab.org.hk/
- Riding for the Disabled: http://www.rda.org.hk/
- Oxfam Hong Kong: http://www.oxfam.org.hk
- Rotary Club of Hong Kong: http://www.rotary3450.org/hongkong//
- Lions International: http://www.lionnet.com/asia_hk.html
- Christina Noble Children’s Foundation: http://www.cncf.org/