I thought charity would be an easy thing to rally up. I thought people cared. I hoped people would want to contribute. I am of course referring to my toy drive to raise funds for Japan’s Earthquake Relief not so long ago.
Well – it was a failure. It bombed dismally. My optimism that people would rush to help (and get something for it in the process) failed. Of all the toys I had, only 3 people were remotely interested. I ended up collecting a miserable HK$230. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. After the drive I donated HK$500 to the Red Cross appeal for Japan. I really REALLY hoped I would be donating twice or triple that.
I’m left asking myself why. Most of the toys were Fisher Price toys – in great condition, which retail for much much more than I was asking in donation (even second hand). I know in Australia they would have been snatched up in a matter of days. So why did I fail to get any interest or motivation from people here? I posted on a couple of forums and spread the message through word of mouth – that should have been enough.
I’ve asked a few people, including some in charity work, their opinion. I got some interesting and varied answers.
– Feng Shui. Many chinese people will not buy second hand toys because they do not want to inherit another persons bad Feng Shui. Superstition is strong in this country, but my additional question to that is – I was predominantly targeting the expat/Western community, most of who don’t give a second thought to Feng Shui.
-Materialism. People in Hong Kong like things to be new. Shiny. Untouched. It can be seen as a status thing. It can be seen as a bit snobbish. Some people would rather pay top dollar than grab a bargain. While I’m not an overly materialistic person, I guess I understand this one. I would have thought people would use hygiene as an excuse. (We did wipe down all the toys we put up for donation)
-Disinterest. This is the one I feared. People so caught up in themselves they wouldn’t care enough to think about giving. People here are very much about the here, now and themselves. Events that happen to other countries (unless it happens to be their homeland, and even then they often turn a blind eye) get a passing comment here. I experienced this attitude first hand when I started to talk about the Christchurch earthquake and how devastating it was when it happened (just before the horrific one in Japan). One person’s response was “you’re from Auckland – why would you care?” and proceeded to change the subject. Out of sight, out of mind – so true a statement. *I* care because people lost their lives in a natural disaster no one could predict or control. *I* care because Christchurch is one of the most beautiful (if not the most beautiful) cities in New Zealand and it looks like a war zone and people needed help. *I* care because as a New Zealander, when one part of the country is hurt we all hurt. It doesn’t matter that New Zealand is no longer my home – I still feel and care for the people there. But I digress. This post is about Charity and Japan.
I may not be Japanese, but I care about that country too. To see the devastation and horror that has taken place there, I actually find it hard to understand why people don’t care. I wish I could do more. It will take a long time for the people there, especially in the north, to overcome and rebuild their lives, not to mention their infrastructure.
I’m not saying all people in Hong Kong don’t care. Jackie Chan was part of a charity concert here recently which raised US$3 million for aid to Japan. That is fantastic – but it needed big name Chinese performers to draw that out of people. I am glad Hong Kong has people like Jackie Chan (even though he isn’t here much) to help rally the people in a positive way.
At the end of the day, despite my failure to achieve much, I was still able to give a little to Japan. As disheartening as this experience was, I have decided I want to do more to help charities here in Hong Kong with some of my time. It’s going to be a goal for me to work on throughout this year juggling other issues around us, but I want to help little by little.