Love in the Time of COVID-19

Editor’s note: On the Sunday before Lent this year, like many Christians in Hong Kong, I participated in church’s worship by watching the live webcast. The sermon delivered by the preacher impressed me a lot. The preacher said, “The peace we have in our faith does not come by owning, but by remembering the need of the others.” At the time of writing (i.e. the early March), the outbreak of novel coronavirus has spread to many countries across the globe. The situation has been most severe in China, where the epidemic first occurred. In Hong Kong, with the increasing number of infected people, the shortages of surgical masks and hand sanitisers caused a great panic in society. This difficult period may be regarded as a test of our faith. In the face of unknown future, let us go beyond our fear by not only focusing on our personal affairs, but also taking care of the underprivileged people in society and other regions which are adversely affected by the virus. May we always remember our little brothers in battle against the virus.


[“SHARE” APR – JUN 2019 ] FOCUS 


Written by: Edward Lai (Senior Communications Officer)


Combating virus in China


In China, the coronavirus has rapidly spread cross the country’s territories. During the early stage of outbreak when anti-virus materials were lacking in China, CEDAR made an allocation of approximately HK$513,000 to provide emergent relief aid in Hubei, Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. Through the local networks of our Christian partners in mainland, we provided medical personnel, disinfection workers, impoverished families, as well as civil servants who were on shift duty to combat the disease, with hygienic and protective supplies. We also mobilised volunteers to care for the poor families and offer living supplies. As the novel coronavirus is highly contagious, our partners strove to keep person-to-person contact to a minimum during distribution. Instead of directly entering the community, they distributed materials to beneficiaries via hospitals, institutions and community units in need.


As of early March, we have distributed 4,600 masks, over 1,400 goggles, 400 sets of protective clothing, 420 anti-bacterial hand sanitisers and 450 kg of disinfectant powder. At the time of publication, some supplies such as masks, gloves and protective clothing were still in transit. We would closely follow up the transition process and ensure that supplies reach the recipients. Please support our work: (Chinese only).


CEDAR’s partners in China transported hygienic and protective supplies to hospitals.


With the soaring price of masks in Hong Kong, there were media reports at the end of January that some grassroots reutilised their remaining masks at homes after cleaning them with firewater, as they could not afford purchasing expensive masks. Some parents even reutilised their children’s masks on a regular basis. In view of the foreseeable impacts to the grassroots once the virus spreads in local community, we decided to launch a mask donation campaign called “Love in the Time of COVID-19” after the Lunar New Year holidays. In less than two weeks after initiating the campaign on Facebook (Chinese only), we collected thousands of masks and some disinfectant wet wipes. All of these preventative materials were sent to our partner Christian Concern for the Homeless Association (hereinafter referred to as the CCHA). CCHA then distributed the donated items to the needy they serve, including the homeless and the grassroots living in cubicle apartments and subdivided flats.


Clara Chiu, Head of Partnership Development, who coordinated the donation campaign described, “The idea of this donation campaign comes from the story of five loves and two fish in the Scripture. I hope everyone can start doing by themselves. Each one donates a little bit of masks so that ‘many a mickle makes a muckle’!”.


Shortly after the campaign announcement, the donation was quite well-received. A man phoned to us and said that he ordered some masks and planned to donate half of them; another man negotiated with us and asked how he could do for donation if he was not able to donate a whole box of masks and the masks were not individually packaged. We also met a donor who came to our office and gave two boxes of masks to us.


Clara also donated some masks from what she had in hand personally. She said, “When you see the grassroots wearing the same mask for three consecutive days, their urgent needs will make you smash the fear of not having enough masks in the future. The fear entangles you like a demon, irrespective of the fact that it is not necessarily the case.”



Five Loaves and Two Fish


Thanks God. Our mask donation campaign received an overwhelming public response. CCHA stated on 18th February that they had sufficient masks for distribution in the next two months. Yet, the needs of the poor in Hong Kong were still substantial. After careful consideration, we decided to cooperate with the Centre for Refugees managed by Christian Action, that served the neglected groups of locals, namely the refugees and asylum seekers. As of 26th February, we delivered more than 3,000 masks and some hand sanitisers to the centre.



Apart from initiating mask donation, with the referral from the local media outlet HK01, we transferred 2,500 masks, 250 kg of white rice, and some soda biscuits that were collectively donated by HK01 and a social enterprise to the MEVCC Hing Wah Neighbourhood Elderly Centre in March. On 2nd March, the centre workers, together with the donor, staff of HK01 and CEDAR, distributed the donated items to the elderly they served – the solo-dwelling elders, elderly couples and elders who were in adverse and destitute situations. It was estimated that 250 elders would be benefited.


While the external environment is getting more fragile under the threat of coronavirus, we should continue to help each other and leverage the networks of local organisations to help and protect the community. We sincerely hope that the elderly and other disadvantaged groups will not have to stand in queues early in the morning or even queue up overnight in order to buy masks.


With the aim of encouraging Christians to join hands to assist the poor and the needy, CEDAR and several Christian organisations have issued two joint appeals to all Christian groups and individual believers in Hong Kong respectively (for details, see bottom of this page). The initiating organisations also shared stories of supporting neighbours on the Facebook page “Affection in the Outbreak of Disease: A Testimony of Unity” (translated from the Chinese title: 疫裡有情‧合一見證). In addition, CEDAR and other front-line Christian organisations issued a press release on 18th February to urge the Hong Kong government to respond to the needs of citizens as soon as possible to alleviate their anxiety and distress.


Under the spread of COV-19, everyone’s life suddenly varied, pressing us to rethink our attitude towards life. As said by Suvan Lau Sui Wan, Acting Director of CCHA, our partner organization of mask distribution, “The disease can isolate and alienate people, but also in the epidemic, it can reinforce interdependence and love among individuals.”[2] I look forward to the day we do not need to wear masks, and on that day we reminisce every action with love and every heartfelt greeting.



Joint Appeal to Churches and Believers in Hong Kong


  • “7 Things Essential to Combat the Disease. Responding to Your Neighbors’ Needs” (translated from Chinese: 〈抗疫七事不可少.回應鄰舍真需要〉): Issued on 4th February, co-signed by 113 Christian organisations and churches (as of 11st February 11pm)

  • “Caring for Your Neighbors, Fighting the Disease Together” (translated from Chinese: 〈關愛鄰舍 同心抗疫〉): Issued on 13th February, co-signed by 230 individuals, in which 100 of them are pastors (as of 28th February 5pm)


[1] For latest news on mask donation, please visit our website: (Chinese only)
[2] Watch the full interview by RTHK’s This Morning on 18th February. Program link: (Chinese only)

What Has Poverty to Do with Me? An interview with Hazel Wong, Consultant to CEDAR Fund

[ “SHARE” Jul-Aug 2012 – What Has Poverty to Do with Me? ] FOCUS: INTERVIEW

Interviewer> Lam Wai Shan

The World Bank’s latest data shows that 1.29 billion people in the world live below the poverty line[1];

Human behaviours lead to frequent natural disasters;

Human dignity is constantly being trampled on….

We cannot help but ask, ‘Where are You, Lord?’

And what can we do?

God gave this vision to Hazel, a veteran in poverty relief and development, ‘It was as if I was a little girl when I saw an adult carrying some water; I offered to help and he accepted. Thrilled at being able to be of use, I then realised that it was the man himself had been carrying the weight all along.’ And God was this man.

This mental breakthrough came during a highly significant trip. Hazel was visiting the rubbish dump in Manila called Smokey Mountain and its squatter community (later moved to the outskirts of Manila). The place was filled with smoke and stench from decomposing garbage. Yet men and women, young and old, scrambled up the landfill barefooted, trying to pick through the rubbish. During the trip Hazel poignantly heard the sad news that someone from a community organisation bargaining for a higher refuse collection fee for the scavengers was killed.

Hazel remembers clearly that after returning to the commercial district of Makati, whilst attending a church meeting in a comfortable hall, she recalled the moments at Smokey Mountain and she wept out of great sadness. ‘I felt that God was very unfair. Why were the people in Makatinot oppressed and exploited, instead they could come to church in comfort, whereas the Smokey Mountain people struggled to survive, oppressed and barely had any dignity?’

Stop and hear

The Lord calmed Hazel down and then said to her, ‘Indeed you are sad and pained now, but these feelings will subside with time, but My pain, which is greater than yours, will never diminish. Where was I? I was the Word become flesh and was among the pains of the people, and I have resurrected, I have overcome all…’ This spiritual experience further confirmed the goal and direction of Hazel’s ministry, and she now no longer asks why we have human suffering, ‘All along God has been living among those who are suffering, and bringing changes to poverty and injustice, He is also inviting us to co-work with Him and strive alongside the poor, especially with those who are oppressed and exploited.’

Hazel encourages villagers to show through drawings their resources

How should we walk with the poor?

Hazel admits that application is not easy and yet she strongly believes, ‘It has to do with interpersonal contact, communication and relationship building. We cannot merely treat the poor and exploited as victims.’ Therefore, to truly walk with them, we must lay aside all preconceptions and presumptions about the poor and humbly listen to them and get to know them. ‘The poor can participate in discussions and use different ways to express their experiences, thoughts, feelings, expectations and actions, including their suppressed potentials and their efforts at surviving adversity. Only when such spaces are created can there be real participation and empowerment.’

Through this activity Africans appreciate themselves and others consolidating unity

Stop and think

Ultimately, caring for the poor is not launching a project, but an attitude to life, lived out consistently. What then are we actually trying to construct or preserve? Do our actions actually alleviate or aggravate the pain of the poor and oppressed? Hazel challenges as to biblically consider those questions: –

Saving or sharing our wealth? Why do we constantly save our wealth? Are we storing up what others have lost or been robbed of? Why are people who lack materially more willing to share?

Better and more successful than the poor? Do we often feel morally, intellectually and culturally superior to the poor? Do we only focus on reforming them that we fail to respect and listen to them?

Does poverty have anything to do with me? Have we considered that we ourselves are also a cause of poverty? Have we ever intentionally or unknowingly fostered any unrighteous dealing or system? When we choose not to respond to a problem, can poverty ever be alleviated?

Is money the answer to everything? Poverty is not a problem just about money, it also involves the dignity, security, fair participation and autonomy of the person. Can merely increasing income overcome poverty by a “top-down” distribution?

Only a medium for evangelism? What is the relationship between gospel work and community care? The gospel message includes justice and mercy but what do justice and mercy mean for the exploited poor, communities and the system?

Hazel often checks herself for a sense of superiority towards villagers

Combine living with action

Apart from self-examination, it is also very important for more Christians to care for their neighbours. Hazel believes that this caring need not be about doing extraordinary things. We can start with paying attention to and caring about the people and things around us. Through sharing and talking about our faith and poverty Hazel encourages brothers and sisters to actively participate. ‘Search the Scriptures to understand what “integral gospel” means, and dispel one by one the myths about poverty and the poor. Further, pray that God will open our eyes to examine other people’s daily situations which we might have once dismissed, and then step out of our comfort zone, bravely choosing to do what is good. Believers can also talk about matters relating to poverty, explore its causes, and amass power to do what needs to be done.’

When asked if there have been times of frustration during her many years of ministry, Hazel replied firmly, ‘Frustration is often there, but I remind myself that God has a strong hold on me, He never changes and He is always with those who suffer. I also remind myself not to be self-righteous but to do the best I can trusting God will Himself bring about deliverance and transformation to individuals, groups and the system.’

When Hazel saw the picture of the child and adult carrying water together she responded to God’s calling without hesitation. Twenty years have flown by and she has persisted along this path. In her daily life she is constantly learning to overcome her own pride and limitations, doing her best to put her belief into practice. God invites not only Hazel, but you also, to co-work with Him who is victorious, to build a world of righteousness and loving kindness. Poverty definitely concerns you!

Extended action

If you have practical ways to care for the poor, log in to CEDAR’s site to share your views.

Hazel Wong has been involved in poverty relief and development for over twenty years. Experienced in frontline implementation of development projects, training and research, she has particular interest in gender issue and is devoted in integrating faith with justice and social development after obtaining her Master in Christian Studies at China Graduate School of Theology, (CGST). Hazel has been a consultant to CEDAR since 2010.


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