CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Charities stretch the loaf for elderly people

HONG KONG (UCAN): Catholic charity groups in Hong Kong are really stretching themselves in the hope of raising social awareness about the plight of the many poor people in their sunset years who are living alone in the city.

They also aim to raise funds to finance programmes for their support by getting the world’s longest raisin loaf into the Guinness World Book of Records.

A 3.27-metre-long raisin loaf was blessed by the 84-year-old retired bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, during the launch of the programme on May 21.

The organisers of the stretch loaf bake hope the Guinness World Book of Records, which accepted their submission, will recognise the long round loaf—a popular bread in Hong Kong—as being a world record in a new category.

The record-setting attempt was initiated by Love in Ripples, a charity group that works among elderly people, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Ozanam Centre.

Caritas La Vie Bakery, a social enterprise established by Caritas-Hong Kong in 2004 to provide vocational training for recovering psychiatric patients, provided the ingredients and baking facilities.

“We chose to make a raisin loaf, because they are very popular among the elderly people of Hong Kong,” David Shum, the vice chairperson of the Ozanam Centre, said.

The fundraising project, which started in late April, aims to enable elderly people living alone to join a local Personal Emergency Link Service operated by the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association.

About $330,000 has been raised to date, which will help 300 people who would find it financially difficult to subscribe to the service.

The service involves installing a device in the person’s home or cell phone linked to a round-the-clock emergency centre. In cases of an emergency, the person can simply press a button to notify the centre they need help.

“The service is very helpful. For poor people like me, $100 per month to subscribe is a bit costly,” 84-year-old Kan Bo-Siu said at the loaf-blessing launch.

“I thought at first, breaking the world record was just a gimmick. But today I can see... it has really raised a good amount of money. It is amazing,” Kan added.

Joseph Tang, a doctor and volunteer for Love in Ripples, said the Personal Emergency Link Service is an important support.

“I’ve seen many cases where elderly people living alone have died because they could not get help immediately,” he said.

“Some were found many days after they had died, because they lived alone and no one checked up on them,” he added.

Fundraising will continue until the end of August. Caritas La Vie Bakery will produce a stretch raisin loaf every week and cut it into slices for the St. Vincent de Paul Society to distribute to the homeless or elderly people living alone during their regular visits.

Donors can sponsor one slice of a loaf for $1,200, the annual cost for someone to subscribe to the emergency link service.

According to a 2011 census, about 13.3 per cent of Hong Kong’s 7.2 million people are over 65-years-old. Many of them live alone.

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