TREE – the tshirt project

Jun 9th, 2012 | Media, Refugee Community | Comment

Refugee Health Clinic

May 24th, 2012 | Refugee Community, VF updates, programs, events | Comment

Always leading by innovation, Vision First is pleased to announce Hong Kong first “Refugee Health Clinic”. This new program includes medical examinations, medicines and referrals for refugees, whose suffering is frequently prolonged by bigotry and suspicion against darker skin prevalent at public hospitals. Indeed, the motivation behind this initiative is the racial wedge, contrary to the Hippocratic Oath, perpetuating a two-tier medical service that makes non-ID-card-holders feel most unwelcome at emergency rooms. These are the only facilities available to those who cannot book public or private doctors. After collaborative talks with Dr. Fan Ning an independent service was launched to meet refugees’ medical needs. The difficulties refugees encounter at hospitals are well-known and hard to address: racism, discrimination, cultural ignorance, hands-off examinations, welfare misinformation, cashier restrictions and the bitterly lamented “Panadol Solution”, i.e. one medication for any illnesses from cancer or sore throat.

Today we are proud to launch a pilot program to bring expert medical care to our members, first, and the broader refugee community, later. Dr. Fan Ning (Surgeon Yan Chai Hospital, President MSF Hong Kong) will set up a mobile clinic at our First Street center on alternate Saturdays (every Saturday from mid July) with volunteer doctors, nurses, essential instrument and medication. This primary care will include: medical consultation and examination, health education on hygiene and lifestyle, referral system, medication and follow-ups in person and by phone/email. An initial team of volunteer doctors and nurses will be expanded to meet the needs of members and non-members following a six month pilot program that will start on 2 June 2012. We are now looking for citizen volunteers to help coordinate this activity that will develop into one of our service backbones in the coming months. Finally, dear members, if you need to see the doctor, please SMS your case-worker to make an appointment – thank you.

Our donation flyer reaches CNN

May 8th, 2012 | Advocacy, Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

Hi  Cosmo,

A friend forwarded an email from you about how Vision First needs donated clothes and household items. I am doing some Spring Cleaning. Would someone be able to come to my building to pick up some donated items? I can have them ready by this Friday or Saturday. I live on Hong Kong Island — very close to an MTR stop. Is there any need for professional work clothes — like ladies’ business jackets?

Let me know — thank you!
Pauline Chiou
CNN International

Here is the flyer that is securing daily donations to our very busy centre – please email it to your friends, thank you! And here is a Press Pack with more information about programs, members and how we grow organically with community support 🙂

VF + Community + Refugee power = SUCCESS

Hong Kong Refugee Information YouTube Channel Launched

May 6th, 2012 | Personal Experiences, Refugee Community, VF updates, programs, events | Comment

Where can my child receive free tutoring classes?  Where can I get free legal advice?  Where can I receive free counseling services? If refugees in Hong Kong ever want to know the answers to these questions and more, visit our multi-lingual YouTube channel  It provides useful information on legal and welfare matters. We interviewed social workers, academics and NGOs who have extensive knowledge of the refugee situation in Hong Kong,

Before recording the videos, we spent some time speaking with refugees to find out what information would be useful while in Hong Kong, in particular for those who are new to the city. One of our videos asks: “What do I do if I need to see a doctor?” Given the complicated process, having it explained in a video will help. The videos on legal issues clarify in simple language what CAT is, outline refugee rights, and much more.

Language can be a barrier, especially since refugees come to Hong Kong from all over the world.  For each video, we added transcripts that can be translated with YouTube’s captions function so that videos are more accessible to people more comfortable in other language. This means you can click on the captions button on the bottom right of each video and turn on subtitles available in over 40 languages including French, Hindu, Urdu, etc.

The channel is created for refugees currently living in Hong Kong. We hope that by providing important and vital information on a friendly platform, we will make refugees’ lives a little easier.   The channel is only as good as its audience. It’s only useful if the videos are watched by the refugee community. Please comment and give us feedback. If you find any information missing or have any suggestions, please let us know. We want it to be as useful as possible.

Follow us on Twitter, ‘Like’ us on Facebook, or +1 our Google+ page to spread the word!

* The channel was supported through a Hong Kong University Knowledge Exchange grant of HKD$3,000.

William Fitzgerald

Dozens of families donate items to support our members - "Thank you!"

Accountability and transparency – audit 2011

Apr 15th, 2012 | Advocacy, Refugee Community | Comment

Compliance with accounting rules as a registered charity is not sufficient. It’s nothing but a basic prerequisite in a financial environment where audits are essential. The question really is: What does one do with Financial Statements? Vision First is a humanitarian agency grown from, and sustained by, community efforts. We wouldn’t exist without the support of individuals who believe we perform essential duties and are a force for change. Our mission is to relieve refugee hardship by harnessing the generosity and resourcefulness of like-minded citizens. We take the view that ACCOUNTABILITY is an obligation to explain our activities to stakeholders and TRANSPARENCY is an obligation to publish independent, verified statements. Although small by funding and staff, our impact is amplified by a unique connection with those we serve and those who evaluate our performance – our members.

To gauge best practices independent reports are essential and audit scrutiny is best. This is the reason Vision First leads by example in the hope of inspiring change. We are pleased to publish our audit and pledges to do so every year. The document below shows that “Donation Income” increased from 395,444 to 924,697 HKD while “Subsidies to Asylum-Seekers and Refugees” grew from 156,552 to 795,452 HKD spent directly on programs. Our team worked a whole year with operating costs of only 27,522 HKD because zero went to administration fees, rental or salaries. How did we do it? Our operating model is unique. We believe in two fundamental principles that unleash creative thinking while optimizing available resources:

a)     foster community generosity by sharing the “joy of giving”;

b)     it’s a losing battle to “pay one’s way” in this expensive city.

Vision First believes it’s vital for each NGO in our community to unequivocally manifest its values by responding to the legitimate information needs of its stakeholders. It is important that clients, as well as donors, can easily review financials and programs, fundraising and expenses, rents and salaries. This allows the public to verify that donations are used prudently for stated objectives, that the organization is properly managed and – most importantly – that operational priorities match mission statements. Or, in other words, “that we practice what we preach.” Nothing short of this will ensure an NGO attracts new funds, resources and talent for growth in the best interest of society and its beneficiaries.

Hong Kong Powerlifting Championships 2012

Apr 12th, 2012 | Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

Our Pakistani member Mr. Khan won three titles at the Powerlifting Championship 2012, but without ID card could not collect the prize money. Vision First founding director and GP to many refugees  Dr. Tsang Pak Ho won the 74 Kg class – Congratulations to both of you !!!

1. bench press 135 Kg.
2. squat 220 Kg.
3. dead lift 210 Kg.

The Die is Cast

Mar 27th, 2012 | Media, Refugee Community | Comment

We participated in force at the HKU Rights Talk – organized by the Centre for Comparative and Public Law – with 20 members who were very satisfied with the outcome, which is what counts. Attendance was heavier than anticipated with delegations from HKRAC, ISS, Christian Action, Vine Church, Medecins Sans Frontieres and UNHCR, with Mr. Choosin Ngaotheppitak inevitably taking the hot seat. We believe our presentation took pride of place, further developing a message that broke in 29 January 2012, reaching a forum at Hong Kong University in two months. We had a chance to talk to UNHCR, explaining we represent hundreds of members who trust us to always take their best interest at heart. We still have much to say, but the Easter break is a good time to take stock of achievements and prepare for the next stage – one which must necessarily include HK Government. The panelists debated whether UNHCR is able to meet refugees’ legitimate expectations and whether it needs to rethink its role. It was unanimously agreed the Refugee Convention must be extended to Hong Kong, sooner rather than later. Mr. Choosin admitted, “… probably that may be a good idea if UNHCR is not around …” After the event, Cosmo clarified with him, “This is nothing personal. We appreciate UN polices tie both your hands. The problem is the government constantly raises UNHCR as an excuse to deflect responsibility. So UNHCR is the first domino that must fall in the sake of progress.” The reactions from the audience ranged from the concerned to the outraged at UNHCR’s long and awkward explanations – not an enviable job! There only seem to be two possibilities: either UNHCR’s detachment from reality is complete, or they have no idea what is going on in refugee lives. It’s not worth commenting on comments … so here is the full text – thank you.

“UNHCR: Evolved into irrelevance”                        Transcript of UNHCR comments

Vine Church Tony: Looking at moving things forward in Hong Kong, it would appear that the presence of UNHCR would be preventing this from happening. That it is a deterrent to that. What is the UNHCR’s legal agreement with Hong Kong Government? Would Hong Kong Government feel under pressure if UNHCR withdrew from this process in HK?

UNHCR Choosin: We have the agreement with Hong Kong to implement our mandate. But Hong Kong always emphasises that Hong Kong is not signatory to the Convention, but allow UNHCR to implement its mandate by assisting refugees … and looking for durable solutions for refugees. I don’t know whether … probably that may be a good idea if UNHCR is not around, maybe Hong Kong would take more responsibility. I would hope so. And maybe that would be a good idea to discuss about.