Chi Man is a man of few words, but is rarely without a smile. The 29-year-old was born with an intellectual disability into a family of 5 brothers and sisters, all similarly disabled.

“If people with intellectual disabilities can’t work,” says his supervisor, “they simply live at home on their welfare allowance. Giving them a job helps them integrate into society.”

Since 2011, Crossroads has employed Chi Man and two others as our on-site cleaning team. We found Chi Man through a creative Hong Kong social enterprise that trains and finds jobs for intellectually disabled adults. It is a privilege to have him: his cheerful presence is a delight to all he meets and greets on the job.
In Hong Kong, social enterprise is increasingly seeing small businesses developed that are employing people who might not, otherwise, easily find work. Crossroads is committed to being part of this movement. Social enterprise is one of the tenets of our ethos.  As, Jacqueline Novorogratz, CEO of Acumen, puts it, aptly:

“It’s about all of us, and the kind of world that we, together, want to live in and share.”

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The boys and girls at Aplichau Kaifong Primary School  face more challenges than most. Many of their families rely on welfare and the kids, often, don’t have the same computer advantages as their Hong Kong peers.

The Rotary Club of Hong Kong South approached Crossroads, wanting to help upgrade AKPS’s computer systems. Like students everywhere, the kids pick up IT skills at lightning speed, but their computers had not been supporting the needed software, their Principal, Fung Pik Yee, told us.

 Aplichau computers (2)

Crossroads was delighted to partner with Rotary and AKPS to supply refurbished, up-to-date sets of computers and monitors, network equipment and a new firewall for security.  “The children use them for reading programs and exercises,” Principal Fung. As soon as the computers were installed, the eager students began working them to the maximum.

If you are upgrading your computers, at home or at work, please let Crossroads know. We may well be able to use your older computers, if they are still relevant to current usage, to help change the learning experience for more students like these.

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Life’s brighter for Hong Kong’s visually impaired kids, thanks to the rich education they can access  at Ebenezer School for the Visually Impaired. Crossroads was delighted to partner with the school and to bring a smile to scores of little faces, by donating toys for their 2012 Christmas party.

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Esther, of Hong Kong, wasn’t born blind. She was three years old when an episode of measles took most of her sight, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that glaucoma claimed the rest.

“At the beginning, I couldn’t accept that this happened to me. I was scared. I didn’t dare go out,” Esther says, “but then I realised that if I stayed home for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t help.”

Upon receiving the bitter news ten years ago, Esther decided to undergo skills training. Today, Esther is one of four guides we employ to run our Blind X-perience. She leads thousands of business people , students and others from the community. When they first step into the darkness, people feel afraid,” she says. “But they tell me, as soon as they hear my voice, they feel comfortable and safe.”

Esther is painfully aware of the employment challenges facing people with visual impairment. “I know many blind people who can’t find a job,” she says, “even if they are university trained.” Having this part time job in the Blind X-perience is more than just welcome extra income, though. Esther loves letting visitors ‘x-perience’ the challenges of visual impairment, and the empathy that comes from stepping into those shoes for just 45 minutes.

“People tell me after this experience that now they understand blind people a lot better,” Esther says.

She also gives participants a glimpse of what life is like for the visually impaired in poorer parts of the world. For blind people in a Nigerian village, upon which the Blind X-perience is based, there is no such thing as special schools for the blind, talking computers, braille books or even proper canes.

Esther’s outer eyes may no longer work, but her insight is profound. We are deeply grateful for this talented, dedicated woman and her fellow Blind X-perience guides. She does a brilliant job opening the eyes of those of us who already thought we could see.

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One of the tenets of our fair trade principles is care for the environment. In our cafe and marketplace, we sell goods that are eco friendly as well as powerful in generating income for people in need.

The creativity of our producers leaves us in awe as they recycle and upcycle.

• In Uganda, for example, victims of the war years were strapped for materials to generate income. They roll, colour and varnish newspaper to produce jewellery so elegant none of our shoppers can guess the source material.

• In Mongolia and Myanmar, artisans upcycle glass shard to produce Christmas ornaments.

• In Cambodia, in the hands of craftsmen, rice sacks turn into funky bags, large and small.

• In India, saries are upcycled to provide decorative features on hessian bags.

• In Vietnam, crisp wrappers turn into tableware

Many of those farmers and suppliers also focus on organic products: tea, coffee, jams, cocoa, chocolates and spices.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

Shop Now!

Browse Global Handicrafts’ full online range here or visit our shop at Crossroads Village to walk through our colourful global marketplace, with even more handmade delights from around the world, all of which care for the people who made them.

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WebOrganic, a Hong Kong NGO, is on a mission to  equip Hong Kong’s poorest children with technology, so they do not lag behind their peers. As part of their programmes to cross the digital divide, WebOrganic accepted 200 digital cameras from Crossroads, newly donated from CISCO, to give children from low-income families the chance to tell their stories. The cameras are Flip Cams: ultra user-friendly technology.  WebOrganic saw 600 disadvantaged Hong Kong families benefit from their Flip Cam project.

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The Chan sisters know they have to stick together. The three young women have been ‘mothers’ to each other since 2002, when as children, they suffered traumatic domestic abuse and were sent into residential care. Living away from their natural parents, they learned independence earlier than most children, and when the older Chan sisters grew to adulthood, they were allocated their own public housing unit to attempt to leave their painful past behind and start a life of their own.

With such a difficult start to life, though, the Chan sisters didn’t have enough money to purchase basic furniture to fit out the house. They visited Crossroads and were able to select what they needed, from chairs to appliances, to small household items, grateful and relieved that this part of their burden, at least, was lifted.

In 2012, Crossroads impacted 13,716 people in need within Hong Kong: people like the Chans, who come to us referred by the Social Welfare Department. We are deeply grateful for this partnership and the opportunity to serve Hong Kong families and individuals at some of their most desperate times.

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PODIE has been serving Negombo, Sri Lanka since 1985. PODIE’s goal is to raise the living standard in small scale farming communities in Sri Lanka by eliminating several links in the traditional trading chain. PODIE is able to both pay farmers more for their spices (25% to 40% above market rates – income which is used to provide education, sanitation, housing and basic health care for families) and also to fund other services. PODIE buys directly from producers so the goods can be exported to fair traders around the globe. With your purchase, you are helping to increase the standards of living and create renewed provision for hard-working farming communities.

SRPO3120

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In Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar, those struck by poverty seek shelter in the city’s heating and water systems below the streets. They emerge occasionally to pick through garbage heaps above for food, and some will scavenge for plastic or glass to sell to scrape a meal together. Mary and Martha Mongolia formed to offer relief to the poor by providing them with a place to live and a chance to learn marketable trade skills. The pioneering organisation trains these people to create handicrafts based on traditional materials and techniques which they can then sell to support themselves and their families. Each purchase allows this work to continue, bringing renewed dignity and hope to the poor.

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