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Service award for Jonathan Chu’s Habitat for Humanity work in Hong Kong

Year 12 Upper Canada College student Jonathan Chu is one of the recipients of the CAS Portfolio Award, largely for his work with Habitat for Humanity in Hong Kong.

While Hong Kong has a glamorous international reputation, that brings a high cost of living with it. Chu says one in four people lives on the edge of poverty in one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and the wealth gap is widening.

Chu initially got a first-hand taste of this in 2008, when he was in Grade 5 and his father took him to a corporate social responsibility event organized by Habitat for Humanity to refurbish stilted houses occupied by elderly people in the fishing village of Tai O.

“Tai O fishing village is the only fishing village left in Hong Kong, and it is home to a few thousand marginalized low-income people,” says Chu. “They are mostly elderlies, whose livelihood depends upon the pittance of government handouts each month, as Hong Kong is not known for its social welfare support system.”

Looking back, Chu values this experience as one of his most significant and memorable ever.

“It reminded me to be humble, amiable and generous to those in need of assistance,” he says. “I want to give back to the community.”

Chu has taken part in Habitat for Humanity projects in Hong Kong ever since when he returns home from boarding at Wedd’s House during summer and winter vacations.

“Despite the hard work, I truly look forward to helping these people to improve their living condition,” he says. “Unbeknownst to them, their gratitude is a character-building life experience for me.”

Chu has been involved with “Project Home Works,” which focuses on renovating the homes of people living in public housing, for the past few years. Many of these houses are also occupied by elderly people.

A “Project Home Works” session generally happens once a week and lasts for about eight hours with approximately 20 volunteers helping out. Chu is often responsible for leading a team of four to eight people. He provides the team members with instructions on the background of the occupant and the home, and outlines safety procedures and what work needs to be done.

“One of the main objectives is for volunteers to step in and help improve the living standards of these underprivileged people, striving to bring nicer homes to society,” says Chu. “Another main objective is to interact with these people that we are helping out.

“We always try to provide social support for them, especially elderlies, when most of them live a dull life.”

While Chu says he could have donated money to renovate apartments for low-income families, it was much more rewarding to have the hands-on experience.