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Needy families bank on hope

Published on Friday, 15 Oct 2010
Citi employees and HDA participants make rice dumplings for elderly people.
Citi employees and HDA participants sell handicrafts at the Lunar New Year fair at Victoria Park.

Citi Hong Kong and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals are proving that one can indeed bank on hope. Launched in 2008, the Hope Development Accounts (HDA) programme aims to help poor families from Tin Shui Wai, in Hong Kong's northwest New Territories.

In its pilot phase, the programme helped 20 poor women from the district through financial assistance, training and community mentorship.

Citi Hong Kong, which has operated in the city for more than a century and has about 4,000 employees spread across some 40 local offices and branches, set up charity savings accounts for the participants and matched their deposits over a maximum of two years.

The group organised training courses on wealth management and entrepreneurship. Participants learned the basics of marketing and accounting, and occupational skills through English-language and computer classes.

For its part, Tung Wah offered the venue for the training and helped participants through day-care services and emergency cash, where needed.

After the pilot scheme ended this year, the HDA programme was introduced in two other districts - Tuen Mun in western New Territories and Lei Tung Estate in Ap Lei Chau, off south Hong Kong Island - with 30 beneficiaries selected from each area. Twenty new participants were selected from Tin Shui Wai.

"Our ultimate goal is to help participants stand on their own feet and learn to take care of themselves and their families," says Alvin Mak, head of markets and banking at Citi Hong Kong.

Citi staff members are encouraged to join the programme's community mentorship to promote a culture of volunteering. "The HDA programme is a platform for mutual learning, as when our colleagues get involved, they also learn from the participants," Mak says. "Staff volunteers can learn how the participants solve problems. In return, they connect with the participants by sharing their expertise."

Cindy Tse, a 40-year-old mother of two from Tin Shui Wai, joined the HDA programme two years ago, hoping to start a business selling second-hand goods. She found the scheme helped to enhance her skills and boosted her confidence. She soon expanded her social network.

"This was a valuable opportunity," says Tse, who used to work as a part-time cashier and salesperson to supplement her husband's meagre income from driving a taxi. "Not only have I learned how to spend my money wisely, the programme also boosted my confidence and I made a new group of friends who were there to encourage and help me."

Mak says participants must make regular deposits, while Citi Hong Kong matches their savings and organises supportive training courses.

"We want to make sure the participants are not joining the programme just because of the financial assistance," Mak says. Applicants go through a rigorous selection process, including an interview by representatives from Citi and the Tung Wah Group.

"The HDA programme encourages participants to plan, become sustainable and improve their quality of life in the long-run," Mak says.

How it works  

  • HDA participants must save HK$200 to HK$500 a month
  • 60 new beneficiaries chosen from Tuen Mun and Lei Tung Estate, in Ap Lei Chau
  • Funded a Lunar New Year fair booth at Victoria Park


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