Career Advice Company Initiatives

Handle with care

UPS Global Volunteer Month helps deliver staff to where they’re really needed

Working with solitary elderly people, the deaf and the mentally handicapped has made Polly Chu realise that a positive attitude and stamina play a big part in both personal and professional success.

Chu, a marketing analyst at global package-delivery company UPS, was already an active volunteer for a non-profit organisation serving the city’s solitary elderly before she started participating in her company’s Global Volunteer Month (GVM) shortly after joining in 2007.

“I am especially interested in helping the elderly as my grandparents passed away when I was young and I did not have much chance to interact with them,” Chu says.

The GVM, held every October, started in 2003 as a seven-day community-service initiative involving 1,000 volunteers globally, with 30 coming from Hong Kong. UPS has since extended it into a month-long event and last year, the company’s Hong Kong office achieved a record-breaking number of participants, with over 440 UPS employees and their families contributing more than 1,850 hours of their time to eight charity organisations.

The initiative has helped open the eyes of hundreds of employees to the difficult circumstances experienced by many Hong Kong residents.

Chu has been able to continue her work with solitary elderly people through the initiative. In 2011, during the GVM, she and her colleagues visited several such people through the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association.

“During this visit, I learned that most solitary elderly people need love, care, human warmth and compassion. With just a small action, you will be amazed how valued you become in their lives and they are very appreciative of your efforts,” she says.

Through the GVM she also met and connected with people at the New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (NLPRA), which provides services for the mentally handicapped, and Hong Kong Association of the Deaf. There were times she found it difficult to communicate with the handicapped people she met, but with trial and error, she was always guaranteed a learning experience.

“I believe that once you have set a goal, no matter how unattainable it appears, it is always reachable if you are determined and focused,” she says. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Through volunteerism, Chu says she has strengthened her interpersonal skills and become better in maintaining relationships with clients and colleagues.

“It is very important to be patient so you can receive useful feedback for improvements and become a better person. I have been applying these new insights to my everyday life,” she adds.

Rocky Chen, human resources manager for UPS Hong Kong and Macau, is responsible for the planning, preparation and on-site co-ordination of all local volunteer activities. He says the company is very happy to see a growing passion towards volunteerism from staff, with each GVM voluntary activity chosen and decided upon by UPS employees in each participating country.

When assigning different roles for voluntary activities, the company’s organising committee will consider the degree of participation of each employee in order to ensure everyone can contribute in the most effective way.

“We respect the personal preferences of each employee when planning the activities by paying attention to things such as providing flexible time slots and adjusting working schedules to encourage more employees to sign up for voluntary work,” Chen says.

The dedication to volunteerism by individual staff also gets recognised, with outstanding colleagues receiving awards for their contributions.

Chen believes that a company grows not only by investing in its business, but also in its people and the communities in which it operates. “We realise that staying on the front line to understand what the community needs is an important part of our job and will help us deliver our service better to local communities,” he says. “Actively participating in various voluntary projects has enabled us to evolve over the years.”

He adds that volunteerism can increase employees’ sense of belonging, improve staff morale and, most importantly, promote work-life balance. “With over 1,100 employees in Hong Kong, more than 43 per cent of our staff have been with the company for over 10 years,” he says.

Among all the voluntary work done by UPS Hong Kong staff and their families in 2012, highlights include:
- Building sky lanterns with people with physical disabilities on Rehab Power Day, organised by Hong Kong Rehabilitation Power
- Decorating therapy rooms with new paintings, potted plants and scarecrows as part of the Horticultural Therapy Room Beautifying initiative held by the New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association
- Raising funds and organising a potato-chip-making session for the Fu Hong Society’s Fu Hong Flag Day
- Organising a variety of game booths in partnership with the Neighbourhood Advice-Action Council during the Love the Earth Carnival
- Visiting the Fanling Environmental Resources Centre of the Environmental Protection Department with children from the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association