Poverty programme for World Day of the Poor

Father Lam during the briefing session on October 19.

HONG KONG (SE): As the World Day of the Poor approaches on November 17 this year, vicar general, Father Benedict Lam Cho-ming, called on all people to be concerned about issues of poverty and uneven distribution of wealth, which need long-term considerations.

Father Lam delivered the message during a briefing session on a poverty experience programme on October 19. He pointed out that as Jesus suffered together with the poor and told us to serve the poor, it was, in fact, the poor who shorten the distance between Jesus and us. He said the services for the poor should not be impulsive, but should be a long-term involvement with an understanding of their real needs.

During the October 24 to 26 programme organised by the Diocesan Commission for Labour Affairs and the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family, over 50 participants were encouraged to attempt to live on a basic minimum of no more than $340 in three days, which is approximately the budget of a person receiving minimum wage. 

Members of the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family also talked about the difficulties face by families on limited budget to illustrate that poverty is not a personal issue but a family issue. 

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Moses Mui Wai-keung, of the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family, said that challenges faced by families in Hong Kong include long working hours, the lack of support for small or broken families and new arrivals. Hong Kong has an aging population.

Cheung Chi-man, a participant, said spending one hundred dollars a day was quite difficult as she only had around $70 after paying transportation fees. She needed to think twice even before buying a drink. 

Wu Hing-fai, another participant, shared that he had also joined the programme in previous years and the most unforgettable experience was the difficulty of preparing the gift money for marriage banquets. He said the experience helped him to be aware of the concerns of the poor about joining banquets or funerals, which may affect their social relationships.

Law Pui-shan, project officer of the labour commission, said that according to government figures, as many as 210,000 people live in working poverty, they cannot improve their living standards even though they are willing to work. Law urged the government to review the statutory minimum wage annually to make sure that it meets with the basic living needs of a family.

The World Day of the Poor has been celebrated on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time since 2017. It was established by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et Misera (Mercy with Misery), issued on 20 November 2016 to celebrate the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. 

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