A Hong Kong blog that does a lot more than blog
My first ever charity experience was back in Vancouver when I was lucky enough to get a job teaching basketball to youth at risk children.
These were teenagers who’d fallen on tough times and had gotten into trouble with gangs or drug use.
It was more than a basketball program. The participants were surrounded by friendship and all that entails.
Playing basketball broke down barriers and it was very clear to me that sport was a great way to bring people together.
Very shortly after I arrived in Hong Kong I started a football class for refugees and underprivileged children.
I love football and have played my whole life. I wanted to give them a great programme, and uniforms and boots all for free to just show them love, basically.
It went really well.
I was asked to speak about it at a banquet one evening and after my speech I sat down and was approached by a gentleman, who ended up being one of the head doctors for the Down syndrome association here.
He asked if I’d ever considered running a class like this for the Down syndrome and autistic community.
Although I was 29 years old at the time, I had to admit that I’d never even properly met anyone with Down syndrome.
Now I know more than ever what a shame that is!
I jumped at the chance to start a new class for the charity and it was amazing. I fell in love with the group and we did great things every Saturday for many years.
As much as I loved playing football with this group every Saturday, I always knew that the programme could be better.
They played on a concrete basketball style pitch and if there was ever any rain, training would have to be cancelled because it’d be too slippery. This would result in the kids spending so many of their Saturdays at home instead of getting much needed exercise.
There were a few other issues I had, mainly financial problems, but a real tipping point for me was when I enquired about life expectancy for people with Down syndrome in Hong Kong and the response I got back indicated to me that it just wasn’t a priority.
It was very shortly after that conversation that I decided to take a major leap in starting Love 21 Foundation.
I was terrified that the team of friends I’d coached with this other organisation would stay put and not join me on this new endeavour.
However so gratefully all but two of the 24 boys came with!!
I cannot express enough how thankful I am that they did and trusted in me. I will always be eternally grateful for them and I consider them family.
Since starting Love 21 Foundation we’ve grown in numbers nearly supporting 40 families now. By the middle of June we are opening up to allow another ten members in to our activities.
We now have men’s and women’s football, dance, hiking, yoga, fitness, trampoline, surfing and tennis.
This is a program where our members will receive points for participating. If they participate in football for one hour they’ll receive something like 15 points and if they join hiking they’ll receive something like 40.
At the end of each month they’ll be able to spend their points on healthy products like organic fruits and vegetables, healthy grains and snacks selected by our dietician Sally Poon.
Sally has met with our team, given them health checks and taken measurements.
Love 21 Foundation is also very lucky to have an amazing chef Tarek Alali who focuses on using fresh ingredients and cooking in a way that maintains the nutritional value while also tasting great.
Tarek will run cooking workshops for our parents and kids.
Another key member of our team is Hilda Tam. She is our accountant who is so important for Love 21 because we need to always be a charity that is completely transparent and financially trustworthy.
I’ve built both Love 21 Foundation and ImpactHK in large part due to people trusting in me and our financial efficiency and it’s very important that we always maintain that.
If you’ve been following Love 21 Foundation’s Facebook page I’m sure you’ve seen that we are fortunate to have a very loving and dedicated team of volunteers.
Over the past year plus I’ve had many people step forward wanting to volunteer for Love 21. After all who would want to be involved in something so awesome?! 😉
I’ve given many of these potential volunteers the same speech, in that we’d love to have their support, but with Love 21 we require a lot of dedication.
I’ve seen first hand how friendships made have taken our football programme to a whole new level thanks to friendship and familiar faces.
The last thing I want is for different volunteers to be coming and going out of our member’s lives.
So luckily we have an amazing team built with the best volunteers who not only take wonderful care of our kids, they also put up with my long winded and frequent whatsap messages.
A very recent development with Love 21 Foundation is that we have our initial Board of Directors Set. I’m extremely excited and so proud of our new team!! I will be announcing this power line up very shortly.
It’s looking bright!
I see an amazing opportunity to truly change lives and give families the opportunity to experience the happiness, love and kindness that our members give for many many years.
I see Love 21 working with hundreds of families from birth. I want doctors and staff in hospitals to be able to tell parents that they will have Love 21 on their side.
I see Love 21 being a force in the sporting world. Special Olympics and other sporting competitions, here we come!
I see our army being a force in bringing the best out of Hong Kongers. You will see us out and about everywhere in Hong Kong opening people’s eyes to kindness and love.
Lastly I see millions of high fives and hugs coming our way!!
I am just so grateful for this opportunity! As I write this I’m full of emotion. I think back to that day I was offered this opportunity and all that would have been missed if I didn’t take that leap.
Thanks to you all for reading to the end;) and of course for supporting Love 21 Foundation. This is your ride too, and we’re grateful to have you on our side.