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The Caritas Bazaar A Hong Kong event

HONG KONG (SE): In most areas of life there are winners and losers, but in the Caritas Bazaar Season, which officially opens in Victoria Park on November 6, there will be no losers.

People are familiar with the one-liner in television competitions, “And the winner is…!” But at the Caritas Bazaar everyone wins when they get involved.

Caritas is one of the biggest charitable social service providers in Hong Kong and the bazaar season provides a useful injection of funds in sustaining those services. So the first winner is their recipients.

But there is also another big winner—those who give their time, energy and imagination, as well as their hard earned money to making the bazaars what they are: a city-wide witness to the presence of people in society who need support and the obligation of the whole of society to contribute towards supporting them.

Schools, parishes and community groups pitch in to make the season of six bazaars at various locations around the city a success.

They not only donate knick-knacks, handmade crafts and other items for sale at the approximately 400 stalls that will be set up by over 200 groups across the city, but volunteers, who usually run to around 12,000 each year, also do the hard yards in erecting them and marketing their wares to the around 80,000 to 100,000 people who wander in to spend a bit of time and money.

This makes the bazaars a real community affair and can also be good experience for students to show off their marketing talents and for the all-important visitors to the events to see people of all ages and backgrounds taking an interest in supporting those in society who need it.

But the Caritas Bazaar is not just an activity of the Church, it belongs to the whole city, with both government and corporations throwing their weight behind it.

When John Cardinal Tong Hon opens the season at Victoria Park on November 6, he will be backed up by the secretary for development, Paul Chan Mo-po, as well as representatives from corporate sponsors.

Corporations have already begun promoting the event. For around two months a large display board at the Inter-Island Ferry Terminal has been announcing the Cheung Chau Caritas Bazaar.

The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) has given the use of 290 vacant advertising panels at 82 stations to the bazaar. Posters have been displayed in housing estates, minibuses have donated displays and there are advertisements at bus shelters.

ICBC (Asia), a longtime partner of Caritas, has sent out over 190,000 insert brochures to its clients with its bank statements promoting the bazaar season.

Hong Kong Airlines has been a regular supporter, setting up a booth annually for the past six years.

This year it will continue its support by donating prizes for the Caritas Raffle. The vice-president of the airline, Sun Jiang-feng, says he believes that supporting Caritas is a constructive way for the company to involve itself in the social support sector and help it to fulfill its role as a responsible corporate citizen.

The famed Caritas Raffle relies on corporate donations to give it attractive prizes, so even the buying and selling of tickets becomes a celebration of partnership in which anyone can join.

While much fundraising in the modern era is done through the one-off extravaganza, where valuables are donated, not hard yards, Caritas chooses to stay with the human involvement model, as fund raising is not just about making money, but essentially about creating a consciousness of a need.

Pope Benedict XVI tells us in God is Love, “Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings… they need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church’s charitable organisations must… dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity.”

The bazaar is also a statement that there is no one with so little they cannot give something and recipients of services from Caritas social outreach centres also come along to give their support, as well as receive a bit of courage in knowing that so many people are prepared to give of their time, money and energy to support them.

As sports coaches like to say, “No pain no gain…” Caritas seeks to walk the hard road, as it understands that no social outreach is complete without the human touch and, by seeking partners in its work rather than onlookers, it is a witness to the life of the Church in society, which proclaims its message while getting its hands dirty.

Jesus told a story asking who our neighbour is. His Good Samaritan embraced those in need irrespective of race, nationality, colour or creed. In this story the winners are the man who had been mugged and the Good Samaritan himself.

The losers walked on by.

There is nothing bizarre about supporting a bazaar and there are lots of ways to get involved—we can all be partners.

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