▲ CLP Volunteer Team celebrates the 25th anniversary this year.
▲ To sir (third from left, second row) and colleagues attended a volunteer service recognition ceremony in 2001.
Twenty-five years ago, To Yip Lam – widely known as To Sir – with his CLP colleagues began to provide a free rewiring service for underprivileged elderly people in Yuen Long. A quarter of a century later, the employee-founded group has grown into one of the largest corporate volunteer teams in Hong Kong, comprising 11 separate teams and more than 1,600 members, made up of CLP employees and retirees along with their families and friends.
To Sir retired in 2016 but the memories of the volunteer team stay with him. “It was 1994. I was hiking with my boss one day and he asked me to look into the need for electrical installations in homes for the elderly,” he recalls. After discussing the idea with colleagues, To Sir says they realised there was a greater need among poor elderly people living on their own.
free rewiring service for people in need.
“Some of them lived in the old resettlement areas,” he says. “The electrical installations in their homes were old and might put them in danger.” And from that realisation, the volunteer initiative was born.
“At that time, volunteering and corporate social responsibility were very new concepts in Hong Kong,” To Sir explains. “Our company at one point thought about giving us compensation leave for doing volunteer work on Saturdays, but our CLP colleagues decided to do it in their own time as real volunteers.”
The CLP Volunteer Team began with 30 to 40 colleagues in Yuen Long and later expanded to other districts across CLP supply areas as more and more employees signed up and services became diversified, allowing people to bring their different talents and expertise to the meaningful cause.
▲CLP volunteers clean up the shoreline to protect marine ecology.
“As we worked on the electrical installation, we needed someone else to accompany the elderly people, so we had administrative staff also joining our team,” To Sir says. “There was one old lady who had walking problems, for instance. Our colleagues made her a string attached to the door, so she could open the door more easily.”
Over the years, the CLP Volunteer Team has provided a broad range of services, including power safety and energy-saving workshops, beach clean-ups, English tutorial classes, caring visits, and the CLP Hotmeal Canteens service, catering to people including the elderly, dementia sufferers, the disabled, newly-arrived migrant teenagers, and low-income families.
▲ CLP volunteers go to the CLP Hotmeal Canteens to serve meals and chat with the beneficiaries every week.
One signature activity is the Sharing the Festive Joy programme, which invites elderly and underprivileged people to celebrate festivals with CLP volunteers and at the same time learn about energy efficiency and safety. The CLP Hotmeal Canteens, meanwhile, has served more than 570,000 hot meals to people in need around Hong Kong since its launch in 2011. Every week, CLP volunteers go to the canteens and help with serving meals and chat with the beneficiaries.
The scope of volunteer services has evolved as the needs of society change. As awareness about cognitive disorders increases, the team has introduced a new service, the “Be Dementia Friendly – Home Visit” programme, last year to visit elderly showing early signs of dementia.
▲Keith (sixth from left) joins a volunteer activity with colleagues.
“The CLP Volunteer Team came into being through the enthusiasm of our colleagues,” says the team’s Chairman Keith Chan. “Our profession is a very meaningful profession. We can use our expertise to help others, even outside our work.
“We are proud to have helped people in need with our expertise in electricity and other fields for 25 years. Looking ahead, I hope more CLP colleagues, especially the younger generation, will join the team to continue to bring more positive energy and love to our society.”
For To Sir, the benefits of volunteering flow in both directions. “In our day-to-day work, most of the time our colleagues probably just follow orders – but volunteering is different,” he says. “They have to plan everything themselves. Colleagues who join the volunteer team become more motivated self-starters, and develop a stronger sense of responsibility.”