Saturday is Flag Day in Hong Kong

My students and I volunteered for a Hong Kong Flag Day.

My students and I volunteered for a Hong Kong Flag Day.

My students and I volunteered for a Hong Kong Flag Day.

Saturday is flag day.  The city of Hong Kong has developed a practical way to manage the host of worthwhile charity groups who want to solicit funds from the public. Saturday morning has been designated as flag day. Between 7:30 AM and 12:00 noon authorized groups may send volunteers onto the streets to request funds from the public for their organization’s work. The organization must be government approved by the Department of Social Services and Welfare. Every Saturday approximately ten permits are awarded. No other groups except those ten are permitted to canvas on that day. The city is divided into ten sections and each group can solicit donations in the section assigned to them. Volunteers have special collection bags with their organization’s name on it. Once you make a donation a small self-adhesive ‘flag’ or ‘tag’ is affixed to your clothing. That way fundraisers who meet you elsewhere know you have already donated and they don’t approach you.

I really like this system. You don’t constantly receive phone calls for donations. No one comes to your door to ask for money. You aren’t approached on the street for money every time you go out. I know Saturday morning is collection morning so before I leave my apartment I get money ready to slip into the bag of the first volunteer I meet. As soon as I donate I receive a ‘flag’ and no one else approaches me. It’s a sensible and organized way of doing things.

One Saturday thirty-five students at the school where I teach volunteered to be the flag day collection agents for Christian Action. This Hong Kong group does much needed work with the refugees in our city. Asylum seekers who land up in Hong Kong from troubled countries around the world face great hardships. The government refuses to recognize them so they are not eligible for welfare, health care or housing subsidies. They are not allowed to work, so are unable to support themselves while waiting for a third country to accept them. This makes even basic survival a challenge.

Christian Action helps them with food, medical services, social events, and education and with their applications for landed immigrant status in other countries.

Since 1997 when China took over Hong Kong nearly 150 mainland Chinese people enter Hong Kong every day. Unlike immigrants from other countries they are allowed to work and go to school in Hong Kong. However most of them have a very poor education and little vocational training. Christian Action helps these people too. They run day camps for the older Chinese children and babysitting cooperatives for the younger ones so their parents can work to support their families. They help school age children adjust the Hong Kong public schools and teach adults how to conduct themselves at job interviews. Christian Action also runs several orphanages in mainland China.

My students are aware of the work of Christian Action since its director is a member of our school board. She requested some of our students help with collecting money and handing out flags on September 1st.  Thirty-five of our young people agreed to get up early one Saturday morning to help. They needed a teacher to supervise so I volunteered.

The kids were cheerful and polite and represented our school well. The public as always was generous and our bags were heavy with money when we turned them in at noon.

Hong Kong has developed an organized and positive way to do fund raising for charity. Maybe other cities will follow Hong Kong’s example in the future and begin to organize flag days of their own.

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