Living In Hong Kong Schools

These inspiring kids are helping refugees

By: Rebecca Simpson

Kids are amazing. Hong Kong’s international school students never cease to impress me. They are, on the whole, thoughtful students who are actively learning to be useful and caring members of their communities. Primary schoolers make me believe the world is in good hands.

This story – about young students in our city who have come together to help families in need – is just one of the amazing things I’ve heard this school year.

Shrewsbury refugee gift drive

Hatching a plan

A few months ago, primary school student HENRY ZARIN felt compelled to help Hong Kong’s refugee community. He was moved after learning about migration and the plight of refugees at school. Christmas was looming and he knew it would be a challenging time for families who had left everything behind to start a new life.

“I believe that helping refugees is important because they are just normal people who were forced to move to a foreign country because of war and other reasons. They’re now trying to live in Hong Kong without much money,” says Henry.

“I became aware of this issue last year at Shrewsbury International School when we held a successful fundraiser to help the refugees and their families. With the holidays approaching, I thought it would be nice to organise a gift drive to gather presents for the refugees. I hoped we would be able to spread some holiday cheer. I think community service is important and if you’re able to help other people, you should,“ says this empathetic young student.

Getting it done

So, Henry got busy making his vision of a refugee gift drive a reality. He pitched to senior staff, mobilised his school mates and organised a successful gift drive. What an amazing achievement for a young person! The gift drive gathered holiday gifts and other donations for refugees living in our city.

“First, I wrote to the Principal of Shrewsbury, Mr Ben Keeling,” says Henry, “along with the leader of Key Stage 2, Mr Lewis Peck, and my teacher, Mr Alex Sadler. I proposed organising a gift drive and I asked for their permission and help. They responded very positively and they encouraged me to go ahead.”

Henry went on to prepare fliers and give a speech at assembly that rallied his school mates to join his cause. “The response from the Shrewsbury community has been incredible – we were able to gather so many presents.”

With help from his parents, Henry found organisations in Hong Kong that would take Shrewsbury’s donated gifts to refugees. “Mr Philip Thorpe of UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, introduced me to RUN HK, a charity that helps support refugees in Hong Kong,” he says.

Wrapping and personalising each gift was a big job

Support from others

Another key factor was enlisting the help of big brands. “I’m so thankful for the support we received from Acumen Paper, who donated notebooks; Kukri Hong Kong, who donated rugby shirts for children and adults; The Quarry Bay Towel Lady, who donated towels and ponchos for babies and children; and Beaumont & Brown – Sleep Naked, who donated towels for teenagers and adults. My family also donated backpacks (rucksacks) for all of the kids, and around 100 reusable water bottles.”

RUN HK gave the student team at Shrewsbury a list of the refugees’ names and ages. The students took on the enormous task of wrapping and personalising each of the gifts. Henry reflects, “It was a lot of work to sort the gifts and cards for each person. But it was worth it!”

The student team brought the gifts to a holiday party organised by RUN HK on 20 December last year, just in time for Christmas. Rather than just create gifts, the students took time to personally connect with the families. “We spent time with the refugees, played games, enjoyed a clown show, and then gave out the donated gifts and items,” says Henry.

Shrewsbury refugee gift drive
Shrewsbury students deliver the Christmas spirit

In even better news, this refugee gift drive initiative will be repeated for Christmas 2020.

The school reflects

Mr Ben Keeling, Principal of Shrewsbury says, “We feel immensely proud of everything Henry has been able to accomplish in his refugee gift drive to improve the lives of others. He must be delighted with the scale of contribution – his compassion and determination have proven an irresistible combination.”

At Expat Living, we’re proud of Henry too – what an amazing achievement. Well done to everyone at Shrewsbury Hong Kong!

Learn more about education options in the city and moving to Hong Kong in our Living in Hong Kong section:

12 Fun things to do with kids in Hong Kong
Best Sunday Brunches in Hong Kong
26 ways to enjoy our city’s waters