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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Crossroads loves to support Hong Kong social enterprises wherever we can. Meet Shing, just one of those whose lives have been changed through a job with social enterprise.

When Shing graduated from a special school in Hong Kong, he tried for months to find a job, with no success. Shing, who is intellectually impaired, relied on his family’s care and support for everything he needed. People who knew Shing commented that he was living each day having decisions made for him, eating simply what he needed to fill his stomach. Without his own independent income, it was hard for Shing to embrace all that life had to offer.

Finally, though, after a frustrating job search, Shing found an opportunity with iBakery, a Hong Kong social enterprise that trains and employs people like Shing who have physical and intellectual disabilities.

He started his training at iBakery’s small workshop in Aberdeen, making dough, cutting different cookie shapes, adding fillings, and learning how to operate the oven. After two years of training, iBakery employed him as one of their bakers!

Today, thanks to his job at iBakery, Shing has a salary of his own and to his delight, he can choose how to spend his own money. He enjoys shopping, and loves to buy comic books. He likes to eat at his favourite restaurants, savouring the pleasures of different flavours and dishes, instead of just consuming what was put in front of him for each meal.

“He knows how to enjoy life now,” said an iBakery manager. The same can be said for the other employees with disabilities at iBakery. “Now that they have their own salary, they can make choices about their lives. They have self-confidence.”

Crossroads’ Silk Road Cafe sells iBakery’s delectable muffins, pastries and cookies, alongside our fair trade tea and coffee. We love to be part of the solution in the lives of people like Shing and his co-workers, who might otherwise have trouble finding fair and reliable employment. Thanks to iBakery, they are not just surviving each day, but thriving!

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Serwanga has been disabled from birth and can’t walk on his own. Living in a Ugandan village with a profound disability, it’s more difficult than most for this 12-year-old to get to school each day, but if Serwanga can’t get an education, he faces a life of extreme poverty, just like his parents.

Uganda_child_in_weelchair

Serwanga has been getting help from an organisation in his region who supports children at risk. They gave him a wheelchair some years ago, to make it possible for him to go to school, but it had started to break down.

“It was hard for him to make it to school every day,” said one staff member.

Even once at school, learning was a challenge for Serwanga and his classmates. They don’t have enough stationery, school books or even uniforms for children from poorer families.

The NGO requested a shipment of educational goods from Crossroads that would help them equip schools like Serwanga’s. When it arrived, they couldn’t hold back their excitement!

“This school had so few items to facilitate teaching before, leaving many of these children in despair,” they said after distributing many cartons of stationery.

“This is a new change in life for these children!”

Serwanga himself received a new, working wheelchair from the shipment, as well as a pack of pens, pencils and other stationery to help him learn.

Uganda_child_with_pens

“Many of these children are neglected and left to wander in the community with no one to help,” wrote our partners. “Now, there is a lot of hope for Serwanga to continue his education.”

We are grateful to Maersk for sponsoring this shipment!

Want to sponsor an international shipment?

We have several international shipments ready to set sail and waiting for sponsors! Your company, club, organisation or family can make a shipment happen.

Email us at partnerships@crossroads.org.hk for a list of partnership opportunities.

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Uganda Snapshot

Population: 37.58 million
Capital: Kampala

Uganda is a fertile, land-locked country in East Africa, in the Africa Great Lakes region, with a tropical climate.

Great progress has been made in fighting HIV in Uganda, but 1.5 million people still live with the disease, and there are 1 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

39% of girls are married by the age of 18. 37.7% of people in Uganda live below the international poverty line of US$1.25/day.

A6

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Musa, just nine years old, has cerebral palsy and spends his life in a wheelchair. The little boy lives in rural Sierra Leone, a nation where the average person can expect to live to around 48 years of age. Musa’s short life began with trauma. His mother was seriously sick during her pregnancy, and suffered a bad fall, with her growing belly taking the weight of the fall. A short time later, Musa was born prematurely, in a difficult birth, which doctors believe could have caused his brain damage.

Following Sierra Leone’s devastating war, hundreds of thousands of people in the nation were left with no proper housing. Musa’s family – himself, his brother, his two sisters and his mother, a widow – live in a single room mud dwelling where, until recently, Musa was hardly given any attention because of his disabilities. His mother plants and sells vegetables from which she feeds and takes care of the welfare of her children, but it is a pitifully meager income for a family with special needs such as Musa’s.

While Musa’s body is disabled, his mind is as active as any other child. In normal circumstances, a child in rural Sierra Leone living in such poverty would have no hope of going to school. He may have no hope of a proper wheelchair, instead, forced to crawl around or move on a board with wheels. Instead, Musa’s family was taken on by a non-profit organisation that works in his area. They help families like Musa to send their children to school, learn about hygiene, HIV/Aids prevention, proper nutrition, and even build houses for those who have no shelter, and toilets in communities that previously had unsanitary, disease-ridden facilities.

The organisation now provides financial support for Musa’s education, medication, rehabilitation and other social needs. The difference in the little boy’s future simply cannot be measured. His family see him with a new respect, thanks to the care and training from staff workers. After Musa completes his education, they want to see him trained in job skills, that will let him contribute to the family income and his community. He has been given a chance at a normal life that his family could never have afforded on their own, and it’s a story that is repeated over and over again in Sierra Leone because of the work of this organisation.

The organisation has asked us for a container of goods that will let them help more families like Musa’s. They want to expand their work, to serve more communities and in different ways. The kinds of goods that Crossroads is preparing to send them will help almost every section of their work – preschool, primary school and high school educational supplies, their work with health clinics, their administration offices, and their programs training young people to be community educators themselves.

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