Hong Kong

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.

with Jason & Polly Noble

with Jason & Polly Noble

The goal of Crossroads is “to be a crossroads in a broken world: connecting people in need with those who can help.” There are a number of ways this is done and so many different things Crossroad does, but everything falls under one of the following four areas:
1. Global Hand: Crossroads helps connect companies and NGO’s wanting to help with those who need help. Crossroads has built an online matching system that facilitates these connections (interestingly, Crossroads has built a similar system for the United Nations). Example: Crossroads connected a company that produces reading and writing software with select schools in countries with low literacy rates that were a right fit for this initiative.

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.

shopping at the global handicrafts shop on site

shopping at the global handicrafts shop on site

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.

loading a container

loading a container

4. Global Experience: The old proverb says “I cannot understand a man until I have walked a mile in his shoes.” Crossroads has created a number of experiential learning experiences where students, business leaders, community groups, families and individuals are taken through a simulation of a particular global issue. Example: As I write this blog, Crossroads is running a “Refugee Run” experience at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland (attended by leaders in the corporate, academic, and NGO sectors from around the world). The experience allows participants to “step into the shoes” of refugees for a brief moment in time. The goal of the simulation is to bring a greater understanding of the challenges faced by refugees and to galvanize support for the 43 million people worldwide who are displaced.
We’ve had the opportunity to participate in a few of the experiences during our time here. All were far more impactful than listening to the issues explained through a PowerPoint presentation, but more on that in a future post.

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.

crossroads site

crossroads site

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.

community volunteers being briefed before starting work for the day

community volunteers being briefed before starting work for the day

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.

the bathroom jay has been working on

the bathroom jay has been working on

grinding out broken tiles

lots of tile work

grouting tile

grouting tile

painting!

painting!

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.

doing transcription work in communications

doing transcription work in communications

incoming department (warehouse on left, office on right)

incoming department (warehouse on left, office on right)

unloading a donation pickup

unloading a donation pickup

incoming office

incoming office

with my teammates...Genevieve (Canada), Alicia (Spain), Christine (Zambia)

with my office teammates…Genevieve (Canada), Alicia (Spain), Christine (Zambia)

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.

local trail map still shows the barracks on this site

local trail map still shows the barracks on this site

our flat

our flat

shootin' hoops with micah

shootin’ hoops with micah

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.

enjoying lunch on the patio

enjoying a meal outside in the sun

The fact that this is a former military site gives the place a unique feel. It also adds to the ambiance of some of the experiential learning experiences that take place here. The slum houses in the following picture sit amongst the barracks and are part of the annual 24 hour Global Survivor Experience. Some of the slum houses you see here were built by CEO of major corporations who participated in the event, experiencing 24 hours of what life is like in the slums. Each year, the slums are taken apart and the materials are used again.
slum houses

slum houses

The former parade grounds where the soldiers marched is now the place where containers are loaded. It’s the only place on site where a 40′ container can be backed in (flat sections of land are rare in hilly Hong Kong). The artwork on the containers was done was done by local and international schools.

container loading area

container loading area

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.

pacific coffee shop

pacific coffee shop

golden beach

golden beach

sunrise runs

sunrise runs

sunset hiking/running up in the hills

sunset hiking/running up in the hills behind crossroads

post work run in the hills

the path in the hills goes on for miles and miles

monkey bars along the path!

monkey bars along the path!

Another thing we have enjoyed in our free time here is the on site “library” where you can borrow books and movies.
library

library

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.

our four-legged friends

our four-legged friends

Between our days of rewarding work, the community and friendships built, and a sense of normalcy during our free time, it has felt a little like home. Overall, it’s been a great experience. More on the experience and some of the things that have touched our hearts in another post.

3 responses to “Hong Kong

  1. You have certainly been busy since getting to Hong Kong. Nice you could meet up with friends and work with them. I’m sure your help is greatly appreciated. We’re extremely cold here again today. Looks like you are having some nice weather. Love You. Grandma

  2. It was so great having you guys with us at Crossroads!
    Please come back again and stay for as long as possible!
    You are definitely the kind of people Crossroads just loves to have helping the poor and needy here in Hong Kong and around the world!
    see you again?

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