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Eye On Taiwan Media helps raise funds for Hong Kong’s charity group Sowers Action to aid underprivileged children

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Eye on Taiwan news staff

Hong Kong-based Sowers Action will organize a charity golf event this Friday as part of its long-time efforts to raise funds for children in need of education.

The 5th Charity Golf Tournament will kick off at the Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club – the activity’s sponsor—in Sai Kung, Hong Kong on Friday.

At least 150 philanthropists, including 100 seasoned golfers from 25 teams will take part in the event, which will be accompanied by a buffet lunch, a tutorial golf class and a buffet dinner with live music.

The rest of the event will include a charity fair featuring fortune telling, stall game, and charity sales, as well as singing performance, charity auction, award presentation and lucky draw.

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Celebrities and seasoned golfers Patrick Dunn and Wong Wing-chee, the event’s ambassadors, will preside over the game’s opening ceremony, according to Sowers Action.

“Through this event, we hope to raise at least the same amount of funds as what we did last year,” said Stella Lo, convener of Sowers Action’s tournament organizing committee, referring to over HK$600,000 (NT$2.24 million) the committee was able to raise from the 2017 Charity Golf Tournament.

As a media ally, the Eye on Taiwan has donated HK$48,000 (NT$180,000) for the golden sponsorship of the tournament in line with the goal of the Eye on Taiwan’s partner – the Nancy Yu Huang Foundation, which promotes education and cultural exchanges.

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The golf event is one of the various charity activities organized annually by Sowers Action, a non-religious, non-profit and non-political organization established in 1992 in Hong Kong.

Major fundraising events, including “Challenging 12 Hours Charity Marathon”, “Walk to Guangzhou”, “Long March for Education”, “Ancient Tea Horse Route Expedition”, “Walk for Children” and “Cycling for Education,” are held annually to raise public awareness about the cause Sowers Action supports.

As of December 2017, Sowers Action has funded in Hong Kong, 16 provinces in mainland China, and Myanmar with a total of over HK$650 million (NT$2.44 billion).

“The funds raised are fully used to support the education and welfare projects for underprivileged children in developing areas,” Lo said, adding that Sowers Action was formed with the objective that every child deserves the opportunity to learn.

She said helping people to be self-reliant is another objective of Sowers Action. “For this reason, we expect those seeking our aid to make their efforts and finally be able to participate in the tasks of education improvement in the remote or mountainous areas where they live,” Lo said.

Sowers Action provides assistance to four fields of work: Teacher training, student sponsorship, special education as well as schools and facilities construction, she said.

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Lo said every year Sowers Action sends more than 50 working groups to various underdeveloped localities of mainland China for “on-site assessment, direct subsidy, and long-term follow-up” – the organization’s work guidelines.

“Volunteers forming these groups must pay for their own expenses incurred by every investigative tour they make in the impoverished regions in order to understand the local economy and the situation on education. Having acquired sufficient information about the school seeking assistance, these volunteers will recommend specific projects to the relevant departments of Sowers Action for examination and approval,” she said.

Also, projects under assistance will be followed up, in the long run, to ensure that all donations are put to effective use. “Sowers Action will consider providing assistance to projects only after our work teams have conducted on-the-spot investigations in the localities concerned,” she stressed.

Asked how to prevent the donated funds from being embezzled by some corrupt officials, Lo said her organization will see that all assistance go to the recipients directly. “We will ask that the assistance provider and assistance recipients sign a written agreement in which rights and obligations are clearly specified,” she said.

Long-term follow-up

“We believe that giving money alone is never a once-and-for-all solution because education development is not something that can be done in 3-5 years’ time,” Lo said, adding a consistent long-term development plan is needed before any improvement can be made to the root of the problem.

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Upon completion of an assistance project, Sowers Action will dispatch work teams to the site to ensure that all the requirements of the agreement are strictly complied with. For example, re-visiting assisted schools, teachers, visiting families of assisted children; photographs will be taken of the construction materials to show how they were used and etc. In this manner, performance from both sides to the agreement will be assured, she noted.

Lo said apart from providing monetary assistance to disadvantaged students and for the reconstruction of dangerous school buildings, Sowers Action also implements schemes to assist teachers to undergo on-the-job-training.

In 2000, Sowers Action started to co-operate with “Project Hope’s National Teacher Training Office” of the Youth Development Foundation of China to finance school principals and backbone teachers from impoverished counties to receive training in Shanghai and Nanning (Guanxi Province) on modern school management, teaching methodology, school maintenance and repair, computer and etc., she said.

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So far, Sowers Action has reconstructed more than 1,300 schools and dormitory units,  subsidized over 300,000 primary and secondary students and 1,300 university students, 30,000 teachers for teacher training programs, operated two children’s homes, subsidized operating cost of a high school providing free education for underprivileged girls from indigenous clans and gave out 10,500 winter jackets to students in 471 primary schools. In sum, it has raised over RMB460 million for education in mainland China.

Lo said with China’s economic rise in recent years, Sowers Action has started reaching out to other developing countries or areas to support the education and welfare projects for underprivileged children in those places.

Last year, Sowers Action rebuilt three dangerous schools and one disable children center, subsidized operational expenditure for “Full Moon Children’s Home,” provided 90 sets of computers and meals for 3,000 primary students, and subsidized tuition fees for 50 students in Myanmar.

It has also provided after-school tutorials for students in Hong Kong for seven consecutive years and offered voluntary teaching of musical instruments for primary students there.

Asked if there is any plan for Sowers Action to help children in remote and indigenous clans in Taiwan, Lo said her organization would not rule out any possibility of offering support for underprivileged children.

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