We came to Hong Kong to volunteer with an organization called Crossroads Foundation for three weeks. We knew of the organization and its work because of Jason and Polly Noble, a couple I have known for a long time (Polly & I grew up together in Iowa). Jason & Polly and their four boys have been at Crossroads for about a year and half.
2. Global Handicrafts: Provides business solutions for people in poverty through fair trade and social enterprises. Example: In Cambodia, a former refugee makes enough money to support his family and finance his studies by working for a fair trade group. He makes “peace jewelry” from all the bomb shells left behind from the war. Crossroads sells this jewelry (and many other items made by fair trade groups around the world) through various shops in Hong Kong.
3. Global Distribution: Provides relief aid for over 90 countries, including Hong Kong. Example (global): After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, the Hong Kong community donated goods, funds, freight, and volunteer labor to Crossroads, resulting in four containers worth of disaster relief goods for those in need in the Philippines. Example (locally): Hong Kong Disneyland is renovating two hotels and is donating the old room furniture (all of great quality) to Crossroads. Each week, as the renovation takes place, Crossroads will pick up a certain number of these items and distribute them to families in need in Hong Kong.
So, those are the four major areas of work. As you can imagine, with so many different ways in which Crossroads serves, there is a need for many different skill sets in making it all happen. And, believe it or not, no one is paid at Crossroads; the operation is run through the time, talents, and treasures of those who give freely from their hearts.
Between full-time volunteers and local community volunteers, there are roughly 100 people per day working on site in Hong Kong. And it is truly a multicultural operation. Full-time volunteers come from all over the world. In addition to many local community volunteers from Hong Kong, we have worked alongside people from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Zambia, Switzerland, Mongolia, India, Scotland, Spain, England, and China. Our workweek here is Tuesday – Saturday. There are a lot of people in the community who are only available to volunteer on Saturdays, so being open that day allows that to happen. For full-time volunteers who live on site (which includes Jay & I for the time we are here), the workday starts with a morning meeting at 8:30 AM followed by work until 5:30 PM with an hour break for lunch.
Given Jay’s contracting experience and expertise (and interest), he was placed in the Maintenance Department. His primary project has been remodeling a large communal bathroom in one of the buildings. It is no surprise that after only a couple of days, the head of maintenance was telling me how amazing Jay is and how he wished they had him here all the time.
As for me, I’ve been doing office work (yes, there are ways to serve at a desk in front of a computer!). I spent my first couple days in the Communication Department and then switched over to the Incoming Department. My primary responsibilities have been closing out donation files from 2013 and responding to donation offers that come in via email and the Crossroads website. It has been humbling to see firsthand the generosity of people day after day.
Crossroads in located in the New Territories of Hong Kong, on a site that was formerly British Army barracks. Some of the barracks have been converted into small flats for full-time volunteers who live on site. Each flat has its own bathroom with hot water and also a small kitchen, which is nice. Our flat is conveniently located near the basketball hoop.
We have buffet-style meals for lunch on workdays and for dinner on Wednesday nights. Fittingly, these meals are served in what was formerly the officer’s dining hall. All other meals are on our own.
On a personal note, we are thankful that the Crossroads site is located on Hong Kong’s Gold Coast. The area is quiet, relatively ‘green’ and surrounded by magnificent hills, a beach and open space. It has made the place feel a little more like home (except the beach part…don’t have one of those back home although I wish we did!). There are numerous paths nearby for running and hiking. I’ve enjoyed running in the mornings before work, which have been accompanied by spectacular sunrises. We’ve been able to hike the hills behind the site after work and on the weekend. And, there is even a coffee shop across the street where Jay has become an early morning regular.
And of course, it wouldn’t feel like home unless there were some four-legged residents. Merry and Pippen are the resident dogs who have been part of this community since they were born from the same litter more than 10 years ago. And then there is the sweet cat who has kept me company while I’m doing laundry.