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Putting on a 'McHappy' face

Published on Friday, 09 Apr 2010
Actor and singer Andy Lau, the Prestigious Guardian of Ronald McDonald House Charities, with children at Ronald McDonald House in Sha Tin.
Ronald McDonald House in Sha Tin.

Parents inevitably face all kinds of concerns and problems if one of their children falls seriously ill. It is a time when they need support, understanding and practical assistance to pull through the crisis, and that is exactly what Ronald McDonald House (RMH) aims to provide.

Located opposite the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, it is a short-term residential facility where families can stay together while their children receive specialist medical treatment. There are 23 bedrooms, including one isolation suite, with each room able to accommodate a family of four. The shared facilities include a kitchen, laundry room and outdoor playground.

"The families have a secure and stable environment, somewhere quiet to rest and get food, while children are being taken care of at the hospital," says Shirley Chang, managing director of McDonald's Hong Kong and board member of Ronald McDonald House Charities. "They can also give support to one another during what is sure to be a stressful time."

Typically, the children will be receiving treatment for, or recuperating from, serious illnesses such as trauma, leukaemia, brain tumours, burns, lymphoma or bone marrow transplants. Arrangements to accommodate the families usually follow a recommendation by social workers at the Prince of Wales Hospital.

"Since the children can't go to school temporarily, we have a library with a range of books and reading materials for different ages," Chang says. "We also organise regular arts-related activities, encouraging kids to show their talent, and their masterpieces are showcased in the arts and crafts area."

More than 1,000 families have benefited since RMH was established in 1996. Besides the positive feedback and the chance to support the community, one of the most gratifying things is that many people who recovered at the facility returned to help other children and families.

"Our social workers and volunteers offer professional assistance to families," Chang says. "We also have highly regarded doctors and health workers on the board who are fully supportive of this programme and give professional advice that can help ease difficulties and resolve problems."

Throughout the year, McDonald's employees make a big effort to promote the charity and play a full part in raising funds. This is done both in the fast-food chain's restaurants and by other events that take the message to the community.

Last November, for example, the company organised the fifth McDonald's Kidathon at Happy Valley Racecourse. About 2,000 runners aged between three and 12 raised funds for RMH.

"Our colleagues provide expert support for RMH's daily operations by giving advice on aspects of management, accounting, marketing and communications," Chang says. "Many also pay regular visits, spending time with the children and helping out."

Helping hand  

  • Ronald McDonald House Charities raised almost HK$13 million between 2007 and 2009
  • Since 1974, almost 300 RMH facilities have been established in 30 countries, providing more than 6,000 rooms every night and helping more than four million families worldwide every year
  • McDonald's Hong Kong organises an annual McHappy Day to raise funds for the charities. Last year, the event received strong public support and brought in HK$3.8 million


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