VARIETY – THE CHILDREN’S CHARITY OF OF HONG KONG BUILDING INNOVATION, AWARENESS, AND CREDIBILITY
Members of the Variety family do wonderful work in improving the lives of disadvantaged children around the world. However, many of our tents are well established with good resources and infrastructure, which has been developed over many years.
This is a story about one of our recently established tents in Asia.
When it was established in 2015, Variety Hong Kong had nothing more than a Board of volunteers from various backgrounds who had decided to give their time and energy to establishing Variety and helping it grow into a major children’s charity in Hong Kong. They had no sponsor, no funds and no staff. The Board of Variety Hong Kong made a conscious decision to proceed at a measured pace to ensure that they would be able to build a foundation for a tent that will stand the test of time.
While Hong Kong is known for its generous philanthropy, there are more than 8,000 registered charities in a population of around 7 million. Many of these are very well established and very well resourced. Many of these charities receive substantial funding from the Hong Kong Government or from major corporate and/or individual donors and operate on a large scale.
As a new charity in Hong Kong, Variety HK needed to be innovative, to build awareness of Variety and start raising funds within the limited resources available. They needed to start building credibility with major potential donors and beneficiaries.
In 2015, Variety HK decided to establish the Variety Butterfly Program as a flagship program to provide early assessment and interim treatment of children and adolescents with mental health problems from financially disadvantaged families who do not have the means to seek medical or psychiatric services outside the public health system.
Children suspected to suffer from mental health problems currently have to wait more than a year for clinical assessment in the Government’s public clinics in Hong Kong. If they are diagnosed with autism, attention deficit disorder or other mental health conditions, they have to wait for another 14-15 months on average for treatment at Hong Kong’s public clinics, and in many cases the waiting time for public psychiatric outpatient services can be as long as three years. Those years can be critical, and treatment often comes too late.
Variety HK has recruited a network of psychiatrists (currently 12) to provide early assessment and treatment to children and adolescents who are awaiting admission for public outpatient treatment services. We also work with other charities to provide counseling and coping skills for families and carers.
Financial support was provided by Café Deco Group, a leading restaurant group with 16 upmarket outlets in Hong Kong, through their “HKD1 Charity Campaign”, under which a voluntary donation of HK$1 (approx. US$0.13) is included in every customer bill to be donated to the Butterfly Program. As Variety is a new charity with no track record in Hong Kong, this was a major leap of faith by Café Deco and they have been a strong supporter of this Program. This program has raised around HKD350,000 (approx. US$45,000) to date, all of which is committed to the Variety Butterfly Program. The Program is gaining momentum and has attracted very favorable comment.
To date, the Butterfly Program has covered 42 children, including eight who received accelerated admission into a Government treatment program – and one whose suicide is believed to have been avoided by Variety’s intervention.
In addition to supporting the Butterfly Program, Café Deco Group sponsored the 2016 Variety Christmas Party in one of their outlets, with Café Deco staff joining in as volunteers. About 35 disadvantaged children and their families, including several from the Butterfly Program, joined a “Make your own Pizza” party hosted by Café Deco. The children were taught by the Café Deco chef to make their own pizzas, which were then baked and enjoyed by the kids and their families.
Variety HK also undertook another very different project: Art in the Children’s Wards.
Following a discussion at a Board meeting about the conditions in children’s psychiatric awards in the Hong Kong public hospital system, we decided to explore possibilities for co-operation with the FarGo Foundation, an NGO which works with at-risk youths by channeling their energy into street art. The objective was to use street art to brighten up the children’s psychiatric wards. This was seen as a win-win-win-win situation: to brighten up the children’s wards; to provide an opportunity for at-risk adolescents to work with children who have other challenges; to provide an outlet for children under psychiatric care in the hospitals to work with other kids; and to provide a low-cost way of gaining some exposure for Variety.
After several months discussions with the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, which administers the public hospital system in Hong Kong, it was decided to proceed, and on 14 January 2017 a team of volunteers from Variety and FarGo Foundation completed a project in a newly renovated children’s psychiatric ward at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung, a major port and industrial area in Hong Kong.
Variety provided the paint and several volunteers; FarGo provided the designs and artists.
Early feedback from the Hong Kong Hospital Authority has been extremely positive, and a second project at another public hospital is planned for later this year.
[Source: Variety International-Media Relations]
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All children are special. However, Variety – the Children’s Charity’s purpose is to serve children who are less fortunate – children who live and grow up with a serious illness, disability or disadvantage. These are extra special children who require a special kind of help.
Under four core programs Variety – the Children’s Charity delivers on its promise to provide a future without limits for every child, regardless of their background or ability, and to be the most trusted and effective children’s charity in the world.
- 1 Variety’s Care Program delivers critical life-saving medical equipment and services, healthcare and well-being to individual children and children’s health organizations.
- 2 Variety’s Freedom Program delivers vital life-changing equipment and services for mobility, independence and social inclusion to individual children and children’s organizations.
- 3 Variety’s Future Program delivers crucial life-enriching communication equipment and services, education and self-esteem to individual children and children’s organizations.
- 4 Variety’s International Children’s Fund delivers imperative humanitarian missions for children in developing countries.
Unlike most charitable organizations that focus on a single area problem or issue, Variety focuses on multiple unmet needs of children who are sick, disadvantaged or live with disabilities and other special needs at a local, national and international level. Our aim is to maximize the real, long-term positive social impact for all children. Variety welcomes the support of any person who shares our ideals and objectives – the profound and long-term life changing benefits your donation and support delivers to a child cannot be overstated.
Although Variety’s work is serious, we never forget the importance of having fun. Bringing smiles to the faces of children is a positive and fun experience for Variety volunteers, sponsors and supporters.
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