The South China Charity Uniting Locals and Expats for 2 Decades

By Alistair Baker-Brian, January 29, 2023

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Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life in China, giving up one’s time to volunteer might not be at the forefront of everybody’s mind.

Nonetheless, China certainly isn’t lacking when it comes to charity. On September 5, 2019 – the country’s annual Charity Day – People’s Daily affirmed that China had around 126 million volunteers giving up their time to partake in charity work, as well as 5,511 charitable organizations. 

One of those organizations is GIVES – the Guangdong International Volunteer Expatriate Service – a pillar of Guangdong’s charity sector since 1995. 

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Not only is the organization involved in a variety of charitable causes, but it is also – as the name suggests – a means through which expatriates living in Guangdong province can get involved in charity work.

In short, GIVES is a “community service platform representing the friendship and support of many expatriates from different countries who are living and working in Guangdong province.”

We decided to try and learn more about GIVES’ work.

A History of Charitable Work

GIVES’ history can be traced back to 1995.

At that time, a small group of men and women would regularly visit the Guangzhou Orphanage. They decided to give a name to their charitable work, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

The organization began to take shape between 1997 and 2001 with the formation of the executive committee. At that time, in addition to supporting the Guangzhou Orphanage, GIVES expanded its remit to include supporting medical operations, leprosy projects and fundraising activities.

Between 2001 and 2003, GIVES began to focus on many long-term projects. In order to do so, they encouraged and coordinated the resources of different groups within the international community, including international schools, chambers of commerce, consulates, women’s groups, Christian groups, enterprises and individuals.

The organization has grown to become one of Guangdong’s major expat volunteer organizations.

‘Love Never Fails’

Charitable organizations wouldn’t survive without the commitment and dedication of selfless volunteers.

One of those volunteers is the person at the helm of GIVES – founder and President of the organization, Rosaline Yam.

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Yam seen second from the left at a GIVES event

Yam – an Australian citizen who originally hails from Hong Kong – is often busy in her role as a project advisor for work between local and international businesses.

Despite such a demanding full-time career, Yam still finds the time to lead GIVES.

“I am not a full-time volunteer as such,” Yam tells That’s. “GIVES relies on the guidance and support of the organization’s Executive and Advisory Committees.”

Wherever you see GIVES, you’ll see the organization’s four guiding principles – interaction, insight, inspiration and integrity.

You’ll also likely see something else – the organization’s slogan.

We ask Yam about the true meaning behind ‘Love Never Fails.’ 

“GIVES believes that love can break down barriers of languages, identities, personalities, cultures and locations. Love enlightens, enhances and unites us with a spirit of togetherness. That is the true meaning behind the slogan ‘Love Never Fails.’”

A Who’s Who of GIVES

“GIVES has the voluntary service of its legal counsel, James Zeng of international law firm King & Wood Mallesons; treasurer, Janet Xu, senior tax partner of Pricewaterhouse Coopers; Darius Thomson and Troy Appleton in the international education sectors; and Vincent Ng in the marketing area.

“There are also advisory members, including Andrew Kelly from the United Kingdom, Professor Colleen Jamison from the United States, Harley Seyedin of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China, and Professor Daisy Yang of Sun Yat Sen No. 2 Hospital.”

What Kind of Causes Does GIVES Support?

Any charitable organization is defined by the causes it dedicates itself to.

GIVES has undergone somewhat of an evolution since its founding in 1995. At that time, orphanages formed the main focus of their charity work.

Yam explains how the group has evolved over time.

“In the beginning, GIVES worked mainly with orphanages, rehabilitation centers and elderly homes. However, the more recent focus has been on leveraging international professional talents and resources to meet the needs of special groups in China.

“From 2008 onwards, GIVES has actively contributed to autism support and research. This has included the funding and establishment of centers in remote areas, as well as the invitation of international speakers to support China’s trainers, parents and management teams. These international speakers have shared innovative evidence-based research on many topics which are inspiring and helpful.

“GIVES’ local work has been guided by the Guangdong and Guangzhou Handicapped Federation, the GD Training Society, as well as sponsors, management, parents clubs, etc.” 

GIVES’ commitment to the aforementioned causes has yielded a variety of events and programs over the years.

Back in 2015, the organization hosted an International Food & Fun Fair in collaboration with the Canton Tower – a commemoration of GIVES’ 20th anniversary with a Christmas concert, Christmas tree lighting, food and drink, live bands and more, all taking place under the watch of the famous Canton Tower.

In March 2022, GIVES hosted Education in Autism – an event focused on building collective strategies for how to better deal with autism among young students in China.

Even more recently in September 2022, GIVES hosted an art exhibition and auction at the Guangzhou Oriental Museum. The event was a fundraiser featuring the works of acclaimed artist, Ms. Piazza Tang.

Another focus of the organization is therapy through a variety of means. Music therapy for those with autism is described as a “systematic intervention process in which therapists use various forms of the musical experience.”

Sports therapy offers something similar. This has included the Cana Football leagues – a scheme through which GIVES has helped train volunteers as football coaches for autistic young people.

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Farming therapy in action

Last but not least is farming therapy, described as: “A curative and preventive method that can be successfully used in education, especially for children, but also for adults who are socially, mentally and physically handicapped, or even for those who are healthy.”

Ready to Try Something New in 2023?

Yam tells That’s about GIVES’ plans for the coming year. 

“GIVES will commence two areas of work besides autism support. We believe in encouraging the communities to serve one another. 

“The Learn to Serve program is designed for this purpose. Seminars on rehabilitation for expatriates and locals – Stand, Walk, Run – are designed to equip children and adults with knowledge about physical and mental well-being on a daily basis.”

Could volunteering be for you in 2023?

Volunteering opportunities are regularly posted on the GIVES website. Perhaps, it could mark a change from the generic New Year’s resolutions of “cutting down on alcohol and junk food.” 

You might just feel rewarded by giving something back.


[All images via GIVES/Rosaline Yam]

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