Char­ity does be­gin at home

China Daily (Canada) - - HONGKONG - By FAN FEIFEI in Hong Kong fan­feifei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In­creas­ing num­bers of Hong Kong non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) have set up shop on the main­land in re­cent years, train­ing lo­cal re­cruits, boost­ing co-op­er­a­tion with main­land gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and grass­roots NGOs and show­ing them the ropes to help them grow.

Ox­fam Hong Kong (OHK) — a part of the prom­i­nent global chain of cru­saders against poverty — too has called the main­land its home and is one of the pi­o­neers in the devel­op­ment of NGOs across the bor­der. It all be­gan in 1976 when vol­un­teers opened a sec­ond-hand shop, rais­ing funds for an­tipoverty pro­jects around the world. A decade later, OHK launched a project in Guang­dong Prov­ince, herald­ing its push into the main­land.

“We not only fo­cus on ru­ral devel­op­ment and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion on the main­land. We pay a lot of at­ten­tion to im­prov­ing the liveli­hood of mi­grant work­ers in the cities,” said OHK’s China pro­gram direc­tor Howard Liu Hung-to.

On top of their minds, Liu said, has been the health of mi­grant work­ers in the manufacturing in­dus­try in the Pearl River and Yangtze River deltas, pro­vid­ing them spe­cial train­ing be­fore they work in fac­to­ries, of­fer­ing them le­gal aid and help­ing them to in­te­grate into the com­mu­nity.

As of March this year, OHK has been in­volved in pro­jects across 29 prov­inces and re­gions on the main­land, with to­tal cap­i­tal in­vested reach­ing HK$1.1 bil­lion — a 10-fold rise from HK$114 mil­lion two years ago.

To speed up the lo­cal­iza­tion ef­fort, one of the group’s chief strate­gies is to re­cruit main­land em­ploy­ees and strengthen bonds with var­i­ous main­land part­ners, such as gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, mass or­ga­ni­za­tions, NGOs, com­mu­ni­ties and aca­demics.

“About 90 per­cent of the staff at our main­land of­fices are lo­cal peo­ple and they have the chance to be re­lo­cated to our Hong Kong head­quar­ters to get pro­fes­sional train­ing,” Liu said.

“Each year, we work with some 100 part­ners in more than 300 pro­jects. Of course, the pro­por­tion of money in­vested in so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions is also ris­ing rapidly,” he said.

In the af­ter­math of the dev­as­tat­ing Wenchuan earth­quake in 2008, OHK worked with the State Coun­cil’s Lead­ing Group Of­fice of Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion and Devel­op­ment and signed agree­ments on re­con­struc­tion pro­jects. A to­tal of 80 mil­lion yuan was poured into 80 vil­lages to re­build stricken ar­eas in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi prov­inces. The or­ga­ni­za­tion also teamed up with the dis­as­ter re­lief cen­ter un­der the Min­istry of Civil Af­fairs in Yun­nan Prov­ince to fight against earth­quakes and other nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

Ac­cord­ing to OHK’s 2012/13 an­nual re­port, the main­land topped the list of coun­tries and re­gions in re­ceiv­ing do­na­tions from Ox­fam Hong Kong. Nearly 54 per­cent of the funds raised were used for pro­jects on the main­land, fol­lowed by those in the Mekong Delta re­gion (in­clud­ing Cam­bo­dia, Laos, Myan­mar and Viet­nam) and South­east Asia, which re­ceived 11.7 per­cent and 9 per­cent in aid, re­spec­tively.

“In future, we in­tend to al­lo­cate more funds for the main­land, de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stances. But, the pro­por­tion of aid will be no less than half of our to­tal project ex­pen­di­ture,” said Liu.

By the lat­est count, there are between 3,000 and 6,000 for­eign NGOs on the main­land, ac­cord­ing to Wang Ming, deputy direc­tor of the School of Public Pol­icy and Man­age­ment at Ts­inghua Univer­sity.

Ac­cord­ing to the China Devel­op­ment Brief (CDB) — a main­land NGO work­ing in the civil so­ci­ety, so­cial devel­op­ment and phil­an­thropic sec­tors — the United States has the largest num­ber of NGOs op­er­at­ing on the main­land, fol­lowed by Hong Kong. Their main ar­eas of con­cern in­clude health, ed­u­ca­tion, ru­ral devel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, and the wel­fare of chil­dren and the hand­i­capped.

Chu Ying, a re­searcher with Ts­inghua Univer­sity’s NGO Re­search

Hong Kong NGOs are ma­ture and they are af­fected by a ma­ture so­cial en­vi­ron­ment and do­na­tion cul­ture. The cap­i­tal for many NGOs comes from public do­na­tions, so it’s sig­nif­i­cant to win public trust.” HOWARD LIU HUNG-TO CHINA PRO­GRAM DIREC­TOR, OHK

Cen­ter, said Hong Kong NGOs of­ten pro­vide train­ing for their main­land part­ners, of­fer fi­nan­cial sup­port and su­per­vise the im­ple­men­ta­tion of var­i­ous pro­grams. But, he said, their ex­pec­ta­tions of main­land part­ners is high. “They pay much at­ten­tion to their part­ners’ tal­ent cul­ti­va­tion and ca­pac­ity build­ing, and would as­sess the use­ful­ness of each pro­gram and mon­i­tor each step of op­er­a­tion.”

How­ever, due to cul­tural dif­fer­ences, Hong Kong NGOs might come across mal­ad­just­ments. For in­stance, some ex­pen­di­ture might not be in­cluded in the bud­get, but it’s in­evitably gen­er­ated such as the cost of a meal for their cus­tomers, Chu ex­plained, adding that when such a thing hap­pened, the grass­root NGOs might need to re­quest for ad­di­tional fund­ing.

In such cases, Hong Kong NGOs might plan ex­tra fund­ing in ad­vance and pro­vide them with more funds, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal cus­toms and the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

The Cul­tural Devel­op­ment Cen­ter for Ru­ral Women — a Bei­jing-based NGO that seeks to pro­mote the so­cial devel­op­ment of women in the main­land’s ru­ral ar­eas — has been work­ing with OHK for more than 15 years. The cen­ter’s direc­tor Xie Li­hua said OHK gives them greater re­spect and work space. “In our co-op­er­a­tion, they fo­cus more on ven­er­a­ble groups, ex­er­cise gen­der aware­ness, of­fer re­lated train­ing and share their ex­pe­ri­ences with our em­ploy­ees,” Xie said.

“Af­ter we’ve de­liv­ered the plan to be im­ple­mented for each pro­gram, OHK would of­fer us sug­ges­tions on per­son­nel as­sign­ment and how to make bet­ter use of the fund­ing. We would make changes if nec­es­sary and ex­e­cute each pro­gram based on their ad­vice. In fact, we have a lot of space to show and im­prove our work­ing abil­ity,” added Xie, ex­press­ing sat­is­fac­tion with the part­ner­ship.

The 12,000-mem­ber Friends of the Earth (FoE) Hong Kong — a Hong Kong-based en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 1983 — fol­lowed the OHK trail, join­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion campaign on the main­land in 1992 as en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion aware­ness on the main­land grew.

Since its main­land foray, FoE (HK) has been net­work­ing with aca­demics, NGOs and gov­ern­ment agen­cies through en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion ex­changes and work­shops.

Chen Zhiqiang, as­sis­tant main­land pro­gram man­ager for FoE (HK), said they have so far set up only one of­fice in Guangzhou, cap­i­tal city of Guang­dong Prov­ince, run mainly by main­land staff. He said lo­cal­iza­tion is not a big prob­lem for them, as all of their em­ploy­ees in charge of main­land pro­grams are lo­cal peo­ple and they could han­dle any prob­lem with great flex­i­bil­ity. “We have strength­ened links with main­land green groups, in­clud­ing Green­o­va­tion Hub and Guangzhou Green-Point, pay­ing more at­ten­tion to the qual­ity of wa­ter in the Pearl River.”

Yuan Shuwen, ini­tia­tor of Guangzhou Green-Point, said: “FoE (HK) is a pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion. It pro­vides over­all plan­ning and re­sources for us and we are only re­spon­si­ble for the ex­e­cu­tion of pro­jects. Af­ter a project is com­pleted, both sides will as­sess the sit­u­a­tion and de­cide whether to take any fol­low-up ac­tion.”

Yuan paid trib­ute to the role of FoE (HK), say­ing it not only sup­ports their devel­op­ment, it has been their strong part­ner in fos­ter­ing growth over the years.

Com­pared with their main­land coun­ter­parts, Hong Kong NGOs have a long his­tory, a com­plete or­ga­ni­za­tion struc­ture and abun­dant re­sources, which could be valu­able ref­er­ences for green NGOs.

“Hong Kong NGOs are ma­ture and they are af­fected by a ma­ture so­cial en­vi­ron­ment and do­na­tion cul­ture. I think the most im­por­tant thing for an NGO is to en­sure cred­i­bil­ity and trans­parency. The cap­i­tal for many NGOs comes from public do­na­tions, so it’s sig­nif­i­cant to win public trust,” Liu said.

But, the case with main­land NGOs is vastly dif­fer­ent, he said. Many main­land NGOs don’t have the qual­i­fi­ca­tions to raise money and they need do­na­tions from char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tions. “So, the co­op­er­a­tion and in­ter­ac­tion with th­ese foun­da­tions are crit­i­cal for the devel­op­ment of main­land NGOs.”

Ox­fam re­lief sup­plies be­ing de­liv­ered to the vic­tims of an earth­quake in Gansu Prov­ince.

Ox­fam has worked with vil­lagers at Shui­jingba, Guangxi Zhuang Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion, in build­ing new roads.

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