Money with a heart
by Patty Tarallo
My name is Patty and I was born and raised in Italy. I left my country to explore the world in 1994 and I have lived in many places since, principally in London, for 14 years. There, I met and married my husband Donal, an Irishman.
I always wanted to do charity work but I never had the opportunity. I was – like many of us – too busy with my everyday life, my job and the studies. When I moved to Hong Kong in 2009 I finally felt that it was the right moment do try and dedicate time to this project. Now that I have this brilliant opportunity in my life, I’m embracing it. It is a rewarding feeling to help people. And I am very proud to be able to do my share in being the IWA’s Treasurer.
At first, I never thought that ‘numbers’ would be part of my professional career.
I grew up in a family where my mum had a cosmetic shop. She was a beautician. I followed her same professional path when I was young and I opened my own beauty salon. However, when I moved from Italy in 1994 to pursue my dream of traveling the world, I started studying IT. Before long, I was introduced to Accounting and I knew I had found my favorite subject. Growing up, I was scared of numbers. Now, I love them.
I didn’t join the Italian Women Association when I got to Hong Kong until urged to do so by a friend. At first, I was nervous, as my Italian was a little rusty. But the group was so supportive that I acquired strength and self-confidence. Soon enough, I became the Treasurer. This is a very rewarding voluntary job. I love to be the Treasurer for the IWA, as I can have both the satisfaction of working for a charity, and at the same time of pursuing the career I like. I feel really lucky!
What drives me in this job is to see people’s happiness. When we go to visit the charities we help with our fundraising efforts, we often meet with the final beneficiaries. You can read their appreciation on their faces. These people have very little, and yet they are so happy. It is a unique feeling.
The Association raises monies for various charities all throughout the year. This in itself gives a sense of accomplishment, but we also have a direct line to where and how the monies are spent. This has been the most fulfilling part: to see every real positive outcome of our activities.
We have a very important charity event each first Saturday of December, the ‘Italian Day at Sandy Bay’ and it has been going on for 31 years. It is a market, with Bazaar and Gourmet Corner. At the end of the day, we count the money raised. It is quite an experience. The more money we raise, the more I feel excited. It is quite an adrenalin rush. We know what this money means and how it will be used. For us, every penny counts.
The first year as a Treasurer at the ‘Italian Day at Sandy Bay’, it was a surreal experience for me. I knew about the process, but I could not believe what I was experiencing and seeing. I got to Sandy Bay in the morning at about 8am. People were already queuing to be the first ones to get in. All day I was jumping from one stall to the other, giving back change and collecting money to store in envelopes. There were thousands of people everywhere: kids were enjoying their activities, and everyone was happy to buy amazing Italian products at such a good price. Every year, the atmosphere is so ecstatic!
Last year, when we started counting the money, we had – as usual – four or five people opening the brown envelopes one by one and counting the cash. Each person in my eyes looked like being part of an unstoppable machine. From one person, the brown envelope was going to the other, until the envelope reached me and I registered all the numbers together.
At the end, the President and I remained there until late, to count the money once more. We were disappointed, as we thought we did not reach our goal, although we were close. We were about to leave the room when I started to do my final checking procedure. Suddenly we found a brown envelope, and then another, and then another one again. We located four or five extra bags. We were texting everyone in the Committee to let them know about this fantastic news. I started shaking. And soon, the President and myself were laughing like two girls. We were so excited! Yes, we made it again; we achieved our goal!
We registered about HK$ 1 million last year. And this was raised in only a few months of preparation and in only one day of sales. The bazaar alone collected about
HK$ 800,000 in cash. I took the money home and put them in two shoeboxes. I asked a friend to be my bodyguard, and I went to the bank to deposit the cash. I remember I had the bag clutched so tight to me, that my hand hurt for a few days. My heart was pumping so hard, until I deposited all the money.
We have been raising one million Hong Kong dollar for a few years now. The first year I counted one million, it was fantastic! We couldn’t believe we had achieved it. I am quite a sensitive person, and so I started crying. In these occasions, I always struggle with my tears. But I feel happy and proud that we are changing someone else’s life. That is so gratifying for me!
I want to have a purpose in my life. I do not want to just live happily, have fun, and that’s it. Growing up, I always asked a question to myself: why am I here and what the meaning of life is. Now that I am in my forties, I do not want to ask myself this question anymore. I want to act. We cannot control all the bad things happening in this world, but in our own and meaningful way, we can still make a difference and do something good.
The ‘Italian Day at Sandy Bay’ will take place on Saturday 6th of December 2014, from 10 am to 5 pm at ‘The Duchess of Kent Children’s Hospital’, 12 Sandy Bay Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong. The money raised will fund projects benefitting the Pediatric Hospital and also other needy charities in Hong Kong and Macau.