Small change a big help

Education | Trista Yeung 24 Jan 2017

It is a situation that every globetrotter faces - returning home weighed down by unused coins. If this troubles you, why not make the greatest use of the loose change to help those in need?

Since 1991, the Hong Kong Committee for the United Nations Children's Fund has been partnering with Cathay Pacific Airways on the "Change for Good" in-flight fund-raising program.

By collecting unwanted loose change on board aircraft, the global initiative has raised more than HK$165 million to help improve the lives of children in 150 developing countries and territories.

To mark its 25th year, Unicef Hong Kong teamed up with the Savannah College of Art and Design on a design challenge, engaging students to participate in the meaningful project. Unicef Hong Kong chief executive Jane Lau said the competition encouraged students to come up with innovative designs, using the coins collected through the program.

"We want to involve students so they can contribute toward helping other children and students who are less fortunate. Through their art pieces, they convey a thematic message that inspires others for a worthy cause. Art is a universal language. It is non- discriminating and can be appreciated by all regardless of gender, ethnicity, geography or social status. It is perfect to reflect the program's key message - a small change makes a big difference," Lau said.

In three days, 11 students had to come up with unique designs. After presenting their proposals and prototypes to the organizers, two submissions were selected. The students were given three months to transform their ideas into art installations.

One of the winning designs, The Bloom, mimicked the blossom of a large tree, denoting Unicef's goal to provide new life to children in need. The 1.5-meter installation was surrounded by hundreds of foreign coins from different countries, with a hand-shaped wood sculpture set as the base. Helena Cheng, a second-year animation student who created the installation, said the schedule was tight at three months, but she was excited to take on a challenge that was different from her field of study.

"I had never carved any wood before. At the beginning, we struggled to find the right materials because they were either too expensive or not suitable. We ended up using a wooden chopping board instead, which was a surprisingly good fit," she said.

Her classmate and project partner, Paola Chen, was impressed by the concept that a small step can make a large difference in other people's lives. "Hongkongers like to travel and it would be great if they can be made aware how [unused] coins can benefit others before tossing them away. It is a small thing that everybody can do," she said.

Their work was auctioned off at Unicef Hong Kong's 30th anniversary gala dinner early last month, which raised HK$120,000. Another winning piece, Drip Drop, now on permanent display in the lobby of Cathay's Headland Hotel, showcases a drop of water falling into a pool. It conveys the message of how a single drop of water can make a huge impact.

Nikhil Nagarkar, an advertising student, recalled the inspiration for the artwork came up while he and two teammates, Branwen Bindra and Blossom Abel, were taking a rest on a beach on Lantau Island. "It reminds us that children in less developed countries don't get any clean water. We hope that whenever people see our artwork, they can be inspired to take action. Light was also a major consideration in the design. We polished the coins to create a reflective appearance like the surface of water," he said.

Nagarkar is working on an online promotional video of the Change for Good campaign. He hopes to raise public awareness of what Unicef is doing to make the world a better a place.

"I am grateful to be part of something that is very meaningful and I want to take a step further," he said.

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