By Lilamayi Radha das on 25 Oct 2012
On Sunday 7 October, volunteers from Food For Life Hong Kong and Deutsche Bank took part in a global initiative, Sewa Day 2012, which aims to cultivate acts of selfless service for the underprivileged in society. The event was branded as a success by many in the City in Hong Kong, and was the first time such collaboration had taken place in Hong Kong to deliver over 1,000 meals to the underprivileged, primarily the elderly. The vegetarian meals included a wholesome mixed vegetable curry, rice, and boiled greens.
Sponsorship for the project was given by Deutsche Bank. One of DB’s Area Head’s, who sponsored this Food for Life project for Sewa Day, in addressing the volunteers, emphasised that ‘This is new age social action that fits the modern lifestyle.’ He remarked that, “People always donate financially to charities and organisations, but are looking for opportunities to give their time. Sewa Day is a great way for people to get together with like-minded volunteers and donate their time.”
The founder and organizer of the initiative, Prashant Joshi from Ernst & Young LLP, had been inspired by a similar programme he had run in the UK for the past 2 years with the inaugural Sewa Day in 2010. The goal was to provide a means for those who work in the City to give back through giving their time in such activities. The distribution in the UK had taken place in Watford to the 350 homeless people that reside there in collaboration with homeless charity the New Hope Trust. The volunteers from the City of London cook at the Bhaktivedanta Manor kitchen. The project and partnership continues there.
Coming to Hong Kong, Prashant intended to replicate at a minimum what had been set up in the UK. He recalled how he shared the vision with the Food for Life team in Hong Kong. “When I presented to the Hong Kong Food for Life team the idea of cooking for and feeding 350 underprivileged people, I looked at them a little anxiously to see if they could support this. The first question they asked was how many volunteers could we get from the City. I said they could name a figure and we’d likely be able to get that many. I said 50 volunteers would be realistic. They then fell silent, and were absorbed in thought. They then said ‘1000 plates’. I said, we don’t have to do so many, we can just do 350 if you want to. They said, ‘It’s ok, 1,000.’ So I said Ok, great! The preparation and planning effort then began.”
On the day, preparation and cooking started 7am in the morning, with other volunteers from Buddhist Temples also coming to help. Everything was clean, and organised despite of so many vegetables being in the premises. The diligence, care, attention, and most importantly devotion that was put into this preparation, was clear to be seen and reassuring to everyone. Once the preparation was ready, three batches of deliveries to different recipient organizations left the premises. Pictures were uploaded and seen by the UK Sewa Day teams who were about to begin their projects also, and this created great a team spirit spanning over 10,000 miles! Hong Kong was online, the Deustche Bank Team Leaders were fully absorbed in what they needed to do, the were well versed in the game plan, and executed completely seamlessly. The smiles on the faces of both the people serving, and the people being served were there to be seen by everyone.
After finishing at about 6pm, the exhausted, but very satisfied volunteers returned home, and there was a barrage of Facebook and Twitter updates reflecting how they’d had a fantastic day. In the coming week, many other Investment Banks inquired about the project, and planning is now underway to facilitate more of such engaging and hands-on service in future in Hong Kong. Prashant remarked that “The success of this project on the day was largely down to very strong team leaders from Deutsche Bank, who helped ensure the plan was executed seamlessly and went the extra mile leading to us being ahead of targets much of the time. There was a lot of help behind the scenes from others, and these combined to provide a very strong combination. Hong Kong is of course predominantly known as a business City, and we look forward to engaging in such projects where we, the people of the City, can be so hands-on in trying to give back to those who need it.”