Vivian Lai: Spreading happiness
27 Aug 2018
"Everyone may have a different definition of happiness. As for me, I believe that happiness is contagious, it can spread among people." Inspired by this thought, Marketing Year 3 student Vivian Lai launched a social platform appropriately called "@HappyInfluence" a year ago. The idea behind it was that by organising a variety of voluntary activities, the spirit of happiness can be spread.
In preparing the first activity, targeting a group of cleaning workers, there were precisely three people taking part, and one of them was Vivian. Undeterred by this lowly beginning, Vivian and her tiny band of supporters set up booths at local universities to recruit volunteers, sent out mass emails to promote their ideas and mission, and sought help from corporate sponsors. Their persistence paid off. Eventually almost 100 volunteers joined up and took part in handing out more than 200 goodie bags in Lai Chi Kok, Sham Shui Po and Cheung Sha Wan. In the bags were homemade rice dumplings, gifts such as canned foods and medicinal oil supplied by sponsoring enterprises.
"Most of the cleaning workers come from the grassroots. Despite their hard life and work, they are usually ignored by the public. This activity didn't aim to serve them. We wanted to extend our warm thoughts and gratitude to them with a view to spreading happiness among everybody in the community."
Apart from giving out goodie bags, Vivian's activities include collecting leftover bread for distribution to the needy and providing free tuition to DSE candidates. Her dedication to social service partly stems from her own very profound experience of "priceless happiness". When she was in Secondary 2, she suddenly developed juvenile idiopathic arthritis. This seriously affected her physical mobility, especially in her right-side limbs. "Being ill at that time, I had the support of many people. Their care and encouragement gradually lifted me up from the rock bottom where I was. Now I’ve overcome the illness, and my hope is that through my own efforts I can help others."
Today, Vivian has a number of goals to pursue, one of them being to set up her own social enterprise. "I always used to think that 'commercial interests' and 'social interests' were in conflict with each other, and I hesitated before enrolling in the School of Business." Happily, it turned out to be the right decision. Studying marketing not only opened up a whole new realm of ideas for her to absorb and think about, it also proved invaluable in helping her organise a wide array of social activities.
Inspired by her studies, she is now launching her own startup business with a classmate. She is deeply immersed in the design and production of environmentally-friendly collapsible cups. The plan is that her business can begin by promoting a green lifestyle and then can be gradually infused with the elements of a social enterprise. She looks forward to the day when she can run her business well enough so that the proceeds can be devoted to helping and serving the underprivileged and needy.
Vivian was recently awarded a full scholarship of HK$110,000 per year by the Hong Kong Jockey Club in recognition of her outstanding academic performance and her contributions to society. Despite the need to take regular medication, she is no longer bothered by her disease. Sometimes happiness is simply a matter of choice – it's up to you to choose whether to be happy or not.