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A close shave for charity
John Brennan
update on Saturday, December 11, 2010
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During a financial crisis, the temptation is for companies to trim costs and batten down the hatches. Charitable donations are often the first item to go in budget cuts.

But not every business responds this way. Recruitment organisation Michael Page International and its Page Personnel division - which specialises in placement of junior finance, accounting, secretarial and office support staff - have been enthusiastic supporters of children's charities, locally and on the mainland, through good times and bad.

Michael Page staff have for the past six years donned fancy dress and taken part in Hong Kong's Sedan Chair Race around The Peak, organised by the Sedan Chair Charities Fund, raising money for worthy causes.

But it was during the height of the global financial crisis last year that the company's work with charities reached a new peak, according to Anthony Thompson, managing director of Michael Page Hong Kong and southern China.

"I was talking to people all the time who were down in the dumps," Thompson recalls. "But you could also see there was an opportunity to do something really good in an environment where there wasn't a lot of positive things going on."

It was then that Thompson first met Richard Kligler, a volunteer organiser with St Baldrick's, a charity dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancers.

Although the charity was founded in the United States, since its launch in Hong Kong in 2006, Kligler has promised donors that "money raised in Hong Kong would stay in Hong Kong for research". According to the Children's Cancer Foundation, cancer is the second major cause of death among children above the age of one in Hong Kong, claiming the lives of 60 to 70 a year.

Local donations to St Baldrick's are funding research into molecular diagnosis by the Hong Kong Paediatric Hematology and Oncology Study Group.

The research, which will end in April, is expected to develop a technique that enables cancer cells to be counted more accurately, which in turn should allow lower doses of treatment to be given, and also lead to lower chances of reoccurrence.

Kligler explains that the American founders of St Baldrick's hit upon an appropriate and attention-grabbing type of fundraising event: "They said, `why don't we shave our heads in solidarity with the children who lose their hair during cancer treatment?'"

And staff at Michael Page have been picking up their clippers with enthusiasm - with Thompson shaving his head twice.

He says that, while they have raised and donated several hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities in the form of money and supplies, Michael Page also gets something out of staff involvement in fundraising events.

"There is also a benefit to us, in that we're able to raise money and provide items for these causes, but our people also get to raise their own social awareness and develop personally," he says.


Good deeds  

  • As part of the company's work with International China Concern, which assists abandoned and disabled mainland children, Michael Page staff visit orphanages to distribute supplies.
  • Earlier this year, 70 Michael Page staff ran the Great Wall half-marathon in support of Operation Smile, which helps children with facial deformities, such as cleft lips and palates.

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