From kind hearts to big impact: Jeff Rotmeyer on bringing together the city’s most active community of volunteers for the homeless

ImpactHK is one of the most prominent and consistent volunteering community in Hong Kong, organizing weekly events throughout the year, Jeff Rotmeyer has managed to bring together a diverse group of volunteers every week to walk the streets of Hong Kong and help the city’s homeless and elderly communities.

In 2014, Canadian English teacher, Jeff Rotmeyer started a blog, The Guest Room, shortly after moving to Hong Kong. By that time, he had already established Love 21 Foundation, a 12122790_941320615962117_1298613675576315423_ncharity supporting the Down syndrome and autistic community, subsequent to a football programme he had organized for the refugees in the city. Rotmeyer was invited by the head doctor for a major organization supporting the Down syndrome and autistic community after a speech he made on the football programme he had organized. Among the different topics the blog covered were issues on education and poverty and the work he does for Love 21 Foundation. What started out as a blog, turned into a movement, and soon enough he had people all over Hong Kong asking to be part of the city’s most active community of volunteer, now known as ImpactHK.

“It’s very glaring how much the homeless population has increased in the past two years.  We’ve seen the areas we serve rapidly grow while also seeing so many new areas pop up. We’re also seeing a very large number of homeless people sleeping at McDonald’s and similar places”, Rotmeyer explained, “It seems to me that the Hong Kong government has no idea how many homeless people are in Hong Kong and they have no idea how to solve this huge problem”.

When asked how ImpactHK has grown to become as successful as it has, he credits the community’s volunteers’ genuine kindness and empathy for the less fortunate. He says, “Volunteers can have an authentic and measurable charitable experience. They can physically put their donation into the hands of the less fortunate”. He also praises the community’s capacity for fun as a contributing factor. The community organizes fundraisers for the homeless every month, such as Game nights, in collaboration with bars, The White Stag and Picada. This coming December, they will be hosting a fundraiser, SOX Appeal, to organize health and nutrition programmes for Love 21 Foundation.

But more importantly, he attributes the movement’s success to the community’s constant push beyond mediocrity towards reaching higher ambitions. From just a few friends once a month to a group of 20 and more people at a time every week, across different districts of Hong Kong, “as our group grows in numbers” he says, “so does our level of impact”.

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As a matter of fact, only a month into organizing this Saturday’s Kindness Mats event on 22 October, the event has already garnered about 4000 volunteers, the majority of whom are students, all playing a significant role in donating, collecting, cutting recycled plastic bags and crocheting plastic mats out of the donated bags. The mats are meant to separate the mattress or cardboards of the homeless from the wet grounds. “It’s my hope that this is an ongoing initiative.  We will continue adapting it to make as much positive impact as possible”.

In the coming months, ImpactHK will be expecting to officially become a registered charity. However, they have already started on more plans to bring charities and people together in make significant changes for the homeless community. Added to their recent success of establishing a laundry service for the homeless community at Sham Shui Po, Rotmeyer and his friends are currently working on The Second Coat Painting Company, an initiative to create jobs for the homeless.

“This opportunity for the homeless could be a life changer as participants will be given three vital connections to overcoming the sort of pain most of the homeless are in. [They] will be given a safe and clean apartment of their own, a well-paying job, plus friendship”.

dsc03699With a quickly growing homeless population in Hong Kong, and Rotmeyer’s passion to continue with more unique and ambitious initiatives, ImpactHK seem to hint that they won’t be slowing down their incredible efforts anytime soon. Even having had the opportunity to speak at last weekend’s TedxHongKong.

While there are some of us who have wanted to help but felt too small to make a difference, Jeff Rotmeyer has become this community’s pioneer for innovative ideas that benefit the less fortunate and in advocating a community of genuine kindness, sincere empathy and making real connections.


For more details on the upcoming events, click below:

Kindness Mats – for the homeless (Still on going during T8)

SOX Appeal – for the Down syndrome and autistic community

Or visit their pages at:

The Guest Room Blog

The Guest Room

ImpactHK

Love 21 Foundation

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