Giving an average of HK$1 billion a year to charities, the Hong Kong Jockey Club is one of the largest donors in town. Perhaps less well-known - but equally committed in their support for worthy causes - is the club's 900-strong staff volunteer team.
"We provide direct services to communities in Hong Kong," says Irene Lui, assistant public affairs manager at the club and a member of the CARE@hkjc volunteer team. "It is heartening to see how enthusiastic the colleagues are."
Initiated by the club's staff in 2005 and consisting of full-time, part-time and retired employees, the team works with non-governmental organisations and social welfare bureaus in different districts in the design and implementation of its programmes.
"We want to make sure what we do meets the needs of local communities," Lui says, adding that the team organises activities a few times each month. These include visits to elderly homes, festival celebrations arranged for underprivileged groups, workshops and activities tailored for young people.
Thirteen-year-old Lee Tsz-chung is one of the 130 young people who took part in a six-day programme last summer, put together by the Jockey Club's staff volunteers. The initiative gave junior secondary students from Tin Shui Wai, Sham Shui Po and Tung Chung the opportunity to find out more about their own community and others.
Activities were also organised to promote sport and environmental awareness among the participants. "I visited elderly people who live alone, chatting with them and giving away small gifts such as towels. They were very happy that we spent time with them," Lee says. "Old people have worked so hard for Hong Kong all their lives. We should show more care to them."
In addition to getting involved in social services in their own community, the students also toured the two other districts, guided by young people living in those areas.
"Participants from Tin Shui Wai and Tung Chung, who went to Sham Shui Po, visited Apliu Street and factory buildings-turned-art studios that are funded by the Jockey Club," says Lui, who co-ordinated the summer programme in which 50 employee volunteers participated. "They were amazed at what could be done to revitalise an old district."
Lui adds that volunteers and participants gathered at the end of each day to reflect on their experiences. At the closing ceremony, the young people gave a presentation of what they had learnt and put forward a proposal to improve conditions in their communities.
"Some performed a skit or presented a TV news report, playing the role of an anchor," Lui says. "At the beginning of the programme, some students were very shy, so it was encouraging to see the positive changes they had experienced."
Lee says he enjoyed the experience. "I never thought I could do so much during the summer holidays. It was great to go out and find out more about what was happening in the community."
Participants visited the Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course, Tuen Mun Public Riding School and Sha Tin racecourse
A tour was arranged to Mai Po Nature Reserve for students to get tips on saving the environment