Enthusiasm, Motivation and Commitment
By Kanie Siu
Every year, I visit our projects in different countries to see how our projects have helped improve people’s lives. Every trip is tiring and tough. However, every trip is fruitful and full of fond memories.
I joined Oxfam Hong Kong in 1998. Prior to that, I had worked in the commercial sector for many years. In 1999, I went to Hebei Province, China to visit earthquake-affected villagers with some monthly donors. That was my first work trip with Oxfam. It took us nearly six hours through narrow and bumpy roads in a four-wheeled vehicle to get to the communities. If you have ever joined our overseas trips, you would understand how tough they can be! Oxfam works in remote areas that receive less assistance.
When we arrived, I saw our field colleague, community members and local partners from the government poverty alleviation department squatting on the floor, designing water and irrigation projects together. It was a chilly day; the cold winds were making me shiver.
As the Chinese saying goes, “It is better to travel more than to read books alone”. Had I not been in the community, I would not have been able to witness how our programme colleague had overcome so many challenges and difficulties, including extreme weathers, long and tiring journey, to visit his project site. I would not have known that he had to go through endless negotiations with different parties to ensure smooth implementation of the programme. I was particularly impressed by our programme colleague’s effort to make use of the donors’ visit to exert pressure on the authorities to enhance the water pump system for the community.
I also realised the power of solidarity and determination. It was the first time that I witnessed how Oxfam engages project participants to demand for positive changes. It was Oxfam’s participatory approach at work! The projects have enabled villagers to have access to running water for drinking and livelihood development. The active participation and enthusiasm of the community members made me feel warm and touched. This greatly reinforced my commitment to Oxfam Hong Kong and motivated me to work hard at my job.
When I joined Oxfam, I was given an image guideline stating that Oxfam is an independent development and humanitarian agency rather than a charity organisation. I truly appreciate this “Working with Poor People against Poverty” principle which aims to empower and mobilise communities to work together for their development and positive structural changes. We consider poor people as equal partners rather than passive takers. As a working mother of two children, I particularly admire Oxfam’s keen efforts to empower marginalised and disadvantaged women.
I have always been grateful for being one of the members of the big Oxfam poverty alleviation team. Being able to join hands with many committed and wholehearted stakeholders including donors, projects participants, local partners, government officials, volunteers, colleagues at Oxfam as well as Oxfam Council members to work on the same goal – fight against poverty and injustice – is truly a blessing for me!
When an earthquake hit Yunnan in early March this year, my colleagues in China worked around the clock to provide relief to affected people, I supported the humanitarian effort in the head office by steering the fundraising and communications work until very late at night. Throughout the years, I have had the chance to be involved in this kind of team work many times. The exemplary team spirit demonstrated at times like this inspires and motivates me to continue exploring more financial support for our programmes around the world.
The trust and continuous support of our monthly donors and the general public in Hong Kong and Macau are another driving force for me. When I was selling Oxfam Rice some years ago, an elderly woman pushing a trolley of used paper boxes stopped in front of my rice stall. She took out HK$5 from her pocket and put it into the donation box. That must be a lot of money to her but she still contributed to Oxfam. I was deeply touched and this incident keeps reminding me to be accountable to our supporters.
Our volunteers contributed their time to support our daily office work, the annual Oxfam Rice Sale and Oxfam Trailwalker. For the latter, some work on a 24-hour shift during the three-day event, enduring tiredness and sleeplessness so as to ensure a successful fundraiser and a memorable time for all. I could never thank them enough for their unconditional support to Oxfam.
Our Council members are mostly busy executives but they contribute their off-hours volunteering in Oxfam’s work. For example, Elsie once sent us emails at 9 pm asking questions regarding governance issues of Oxfam; at the same time of the same day, Bernard was presenting awards to at the Oxfam Trailwalker Prize Presentation Ceremony. CK Lo, Bernard and KK always reply our emails on weekends. It seems to me that they do not have rest time at all. I also find that they are very familiar with the issues of the agency. I believe they have spent much time reading thoroughly our documents before they attend each Council meeting. They really care about the work of Oxfam. How can a full time employee like me not work as hard as they do?
Fifteen years have gone by in the blink of an eye. My job has made my life happier and more fulfilled. I see this as a sustainable personal development.
Kanie Siu is Director of Fundraising and Communications at Oxfam Hong Kong.