There are some wonderful charity organisations in Hong Kong, who each day strive to make a positive difference to people’s lives. One such registered charity in HK is Sunbeam Children’s Foundation. We chatted with Pauleen Fernandez and Rebecca Boss (Kiwi and Australian expats respectively) about their work for Sunbeam – and also about a special challenge for April that we think Expat Living readers will enjoy being a part of, especially as they’ll be giving a helping hand at the same time!
Where are you from originally? What do you miss about it?
Pauleen: I was born and raised in New Zealand and have been living in Hong Kong since 2000. Time really flies! I miss time with my family and being able to drive long distances without seeing any people.
Rebecca: I’m originally from Queensland, Australia but work has taken me all over the world. My husband moved to HK in 2006 and I followed a year later. Like a lot of people, we only intended to be here for a short time and we’re still here! I miss my Australian family, particularly over the past 12 months – and Australian grocery stores as well!
When did you first come here? Where else have you lived?
Pauleen: I arrived in February 2000 from Auckland on a six-week work project. I left briefly to pack up my life in NZ and have been in Hong Kong ever since! I met my husband here, and together we’re raising two wonderful third culture children.
Rebecca: My husband and I first visited HK in 2005 and knew then that we wanted to make it our home!. We’ve been very fortunate to have raised two boys in this wonderful country. Prior to Hong Kong, my husband and I also lived in the US for 2.5 years and have had the travel bug ever since.
What’s the mission or aim of Sunbeam Children’s Foundation?
We provide a home, healthcare and career guidance to orphans and disadvantaged children at our Sunbeam Children’s Village in Baiwan, Guangdong, China. This is a very rural area of Guangdong province, a 3.5-hour drive north of Guangzhou. We strive to create a brighter future for those who need it most, helping children learn the professional and social skills required to survive and thrive in modern-day China.
What’s your role there?
We are Co-Chairs of the Foundation. We’re a very small charity in terms of member numbers and we are very active working Board members!
Give us an insight into some of the work you do.
We currently have 89 children in our care at Sunbeam Children’s Village and they range in age from five to 25 years. Most children will live at the Village between the ages of 10 and 15, when they are then fully prepared to enter society as independent, contributing citizens.
In addition to providing a home for these children and young people, we also raise funds to enable them to attend higher education facilities, including vocational training and university courses. Sometimes we need to provide funding for special medical support, which may not be covered by local government agencies.
We’re also committed to ensuring the social and emotional wellbeing of our children, by holding regular extracurricular activities such as art, music, sport and dance. Some of our Alumni have gone on to successful careers, including a doctor, physiotherapist, engineer, social workers, nurses and a sports educator.
How do you feel personally about the work you do at Sunbeam?
Pauleen: From my first visit to Sunbeam Children’s Village, I was smitten with the children there! The facilities are amazing and we try to give the children many opportunities to thrive and find their passion so they can create the lives they desire. Apart from being a parent myself, this is the most meaningful work I’ve been involved in. You can really see how the generosity of our donors and the contribution of our members and volunteers directly impacts the children there.
Rebecca: Sunbeam Village is a magical place where the children are happy and grateful for their life and opportunities, despite the hardships and sometimes trauma they’ve experienced. Children are my passion (I’m also a teacher) and it gives me joy to know that the work we are doing improves their lives and gives them a brighter future. Sunbeam is part of our family and my children have visited with me on many occasions. I believe this makes them more compassionate and empathetic towards others.
Tell us about your latest campaign?
The Sunbeam21 is an exciting and meaningful virtual sports challenge, to motivate participants to exercise for an hour a day for 21 days, or 21 hours total exercise during April.
We chose 21 hours because this is how long it would take the average person to complete a non-stop 189km run from Hong Kong to our Sunbeam Children’s Village in Baiwan. Sunbeam Children’s Village first opened its doors to children in May 1999, so we are technically still 21 years old! And, it has been said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so we’re hoping the challenge will help participants get some great health benefits, whilst raising much needed funds for Sunbeam!
How can readers sign up or get involved?
All the information, including the link to registration, can be found here. You can also visit our website, sunbeam.org, for information and follow us on social media. We hope readers will be inspired to move with us during April and help support Sunbeam Children’s Foundation!
We hope you found this interesting. See more in our Living in Hong Kong section.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!