Last fall, Jack, one of our regular track volunteers decided to do more for his running and for the refugees he trains with: “In Hong Kong, there are so many types of races – short, long, hilly, flat, obstacle courses – I wanted to give them a go, and I thought what better opportunity to do so than to do it for charity.” Jack signed up for four races that would challenge him in different ways – through epic obstacles in the challenging Spartan Race, up 81 flights of stairs in the SHKP Vertical Run, over hilly terrain in the China Coast Half Marathon, and through the streets of Hong Kong in the Standard Chartered Marathon – and set up an online fundraising page to allow people to support his challenge and donate to RUN.
Jack set his goal at HK$14,000, the amount needed to cover one year of sports for a female refugee (including transportation, meals, and childcare), knowing that having a tangible cost would help people understand the need. Given the timing of his races around the holiday season, Jack took the opportunity to ask for donations to his fundraising campaign in lieu of Christmas gifts.
For Jack, helping refugees is personal because of his grandma Lisa. At the age of six, Lisa was forced to flee the German occupation of her home country of Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) and find a new home in the UK, where she has lived ever since. Lisa’s safe escape was thanks to a man named Nicholas Winton, a young British stockbroker who organised for trains to transport young Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to the UK before the borders closed, saving the lives of more than 650 children (including Lisa and her brother). Winton’s heroic actions remained a secret, even to his own family, for more than fifty years, until his wife discovered a scrapbook documenting the children he had saved, and his story was later shared in a BBC documentary.
Several years ago, Jack had the privilege of meeting and thanking Winton in person. In that meeting, he realised that without individuals like Winton who extended a hand to those in need, his grandma Lisa would not have survived, and by extension, Jack would not have existed. “It’s a personal note for me that my grandma Lisa came to the UK searching for help and freedom, and was able to find it,” says Jack. “As a result, I want to try in a very small way to emulate some of the actions that Nicholas Winton did in his twenties in Europe.”
In 2017, Jack moved to Hong Kong to set up a new Asia office for his employer, a British department store called John Lewis. Shortly after arriving in Hong Kong, a friend heard about Jack’s interest in running and in charities serving refugees, and introduced him to RUN, where Jack quickly became a regular volunteer at our Thursday night track training sessions. “The thing that I like about RUN is that everyone is doing the same thing together,” Jack says about the training sessions. “There’s a whole range of talent and speed and it’s not competitive, it’s just about exercising together. It doesn’t matter where we’re from, we’re all running together.”
In February this year, Jack made it to the finish line of his fourth and final race (which he ran while recovering from a nasty encounter with a sea urchin!), and hit his goal of raising HK$14,000 for RUN. Jack recognises how powerful fundraising campaigns like his can be to unlock generosity in others: “Often [people] find out about a charity and give to a charity that they wouldn’t have known about or have a reason to give to, but as soon as someone they love and trust runs for a charity, suddenly that’s a reason to donate,” he says.
His advice for others thinking about starting a fundraiser is simple: “Be brave to ask. You should never be afraid to ask. I was not expecting to raise the amount I did, but the reason I was able to, was because it was shared it at work, on social media, through my networks.”
We are so thankful to Jack for literally going the distance for RUN and for vulnerable refugees in Hong Kong! Jack not only helped us to raise much-needed funds to continue our work of rehabilitating vulnerable refugees, he also helped to spread the word about the needs of refugees in Hong Kong.