Category: Hong Kong Economy

Jan 28

Hong Kong Guide: SoCO – We Live

War. Starvation. Migration. Instability.
A speck of dust in the great 30s and 40s.
With a will not of their own; in the turbulence of history,
All assembled in the past shattered into nought.
Looking back,
They lived a life which spanned over generations.
Asking for little in an uneasy life, save for
The simplest, the most vital, struggling to show
We live.

If you are looking for something different and meaningful to do in Hong Kong, check out this photo exhibition organized by SoCO – a non-profit welfare organization in Hong Kong. The exhibition, titled “We Live”, seeks to help the public understand more about the life of grass roots elderly people living in poverty.

Period of Exhibition: 30th January 2015 to 29th March 2015

Venue: 1/F, 269 Yu Chau Street, Sham Shui Po (right next to Sham Shui Po MTR Station, exit C2)

SoCo Image - We live - Exhibition

Here are the activities:

Opening Reception – 31st January 2015, 3pm 

Share the special moment with our elderly people, social workers and the photographer!

Photographer’s sharing (in Cantonese) – 8th February 2015, 4pm to 6pm

Photographer Lam Chun Tung shares his thought and reflection of his 4-year photography project on grass roots elderly.

Talk – When I’m 64 (in Cantonese) – 28th February 2015, 2pm to 4pm 

What would we face when we become old? Is there any protection system for elderly people in Hong Kong and is it functional? Senior social worker and grass roots elderly people share their experiences and difficulties regarding aging.

Human Library @ Grandpa & Grandma (in Cantonese) – 14th March, 2pm to 4pm

Collaborating with the magazine Breakazine, Human Library @ Grandpa & Grandma is an activity where elderly people share their real stories. You are welcome to join!

The Photobook – which documents the real stories of 18 grass roots elderly in Hong Kong – is available for purchase during the exhibition at HK$180. Revenue of books sold will be donated to support SoCO’s frontline work of poverty relief. For more details, please check out SoCO’s page – We Live.


Dec 15

Hong Kong Guide: Helping SoCO

At Big Foot Tour, we have always been actively looking for ways to help and do our part for society. If one observes carefully, there are many signs in our daily lives which reveal the less-than-optimal living conditions in Hong Kong. Often, these are hidden behind the facade of fancy malls and tall buildings.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 5 people in Hong Kong live in poverty
  • At least 170,000 people live in subdivided inadequate housing such as caged homes, roof tops or coffin homes. Here’s an article – Coffin House – which was written by us previously
  • 1 in 4 underprivileged children do not get 3 meals a day
  • The median household income of Hong Kong’s lowest income group in only HK$4,000 per month
  • 1 in 3 seniors are living in poverty. To make matters worse, many elderly workers are either being kicked out of the labour market or being given low wages and are not protected by labour laws

Here’s a recent news article from South China Morning Post: 1.3 million Hongkongers live in poverty, government says, but offers no solution.

Hong Kong Guide - Giving Back @ SoCO - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong Tours

Hong Kong Guide - Giving Back @ SoCO - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong Tours

We thought long and hard about how we can extend our help to these people. One welfare organization caught our attention recently when we became aware of the many great things that they had done for the less-privileged.

Introducing SoCO:

Hong Kong Guide - Giving Back @ SoCO - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong Tours

“SoCO is a non-profit welfare organization which was set up in 1972. Its funding comes from overseas churches, the Hong Kong Community Chest and donations from individuals. 

For more than 40 years, we in SoCO have witnessed the various changing faces of Hong Kong’s social and economic transformation. During our daily work, we deeply feel the hardship faced by those from the poorest levels of our community. People who have worked quietly over the past decades and survived by living from hand to mouth and yet, they now neither live with dignity nor share the fruits of economic development. Under the surface of prosperity lives a community that has fallen into oblivion. In cramped and crowded cages and dilapidated private tenements are found, lonely old people, residents in old public housing estates, new immigrants, children living in poverty, street-sleepers, people recovered from mental illness, low-paid workers and common people whose voices are not heard. They have long been the targets for our service.

We firmly believe that everyone should enjoy the same rights. We are also convinced that an equal chance of development and a system which reasonable allocates social resources is the basis for protecting citizen’s rights. For many years, we have organized people at the grassroots level through community organization and social action to fight for policy change and a decent living standard.

For the people we care; for justice we act. With this mission, we strive to realize our dream: establish a society in which human dignity is respected and social justice is upheld. ”  ~ SoCO, verbatim.

“Policy changes are important,” says Irene, a staff from SoCO who has generously offered us her time when we wanted to find out more about their initiatives. “The last we want is to make the people that we are helping feel that we are just expressing sympathy. We hope to make a bigger impact through policy changes. That’s the way to ensure these people are better taken care of in the long run.” She patiently explained SoCO’s perspective, whilst bringing us around to witness the projects that they are undertaking.

We nodded in unison. After all, rich or poor, young or old, all these people are part of Hong Kong and they should be equally accepted and welcomed by the society. We spent the rest of the evening discussing ways that Big Foot Tour can help. In the meanwhile, for the next 2 years, we have committed to donate a part of our earnings to SoCO. We hope that these money – however little or much – can express our support for SoCO, and more importantly, for people in the grassroots level that need help.

We are not stopping here, for sure, as we are still reaching out to more organisations and more people who are in need.

You have our word.

For more information on SoCO or if you would like to make a donation, please visit SoCO’s website directly.


References from:

Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, 2011 & 2013; Action research by SoCO, 2011; and Survey on Subdivided Units in Hong Kong”, 2013; conducted by Policy 21 Ltd with commission of the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee



Sep 06

Hong Kong Guide: High Turnover

It has been a terrible week of awareness. In Hong Kong, change is the only constant. In fact, we have a crazy high turnover.

There are 2 units currently undergoing renovation in my building and the drilling noise irritates me to the core. Everyday, without fail, the drilling starts at 9.30am and does not seem to stop until the sun sets. I frown and wonder what on earth requires so much drilling. How many walls does an apartment have? I lament over my poor musical talent, of which otherwise, I may have easily convert these noise pollution to music pleasant to my ears.

A few days later, I chanced upon an online property website where my landlord had not-so-subtly listed my place for sale. I made a mental (sad) note and prepared myself for the day when my landlord issues me my one-month notification and legally requests me to move out. I have been a good tenant, but I guess, it does not help much when it comes to a battle between capital appreciation and rental income.

Just another day, I scrambled out of my house after the drilling noise caused me a bad headache. I brought my black IBM laptop out, together with some money for the purchase of a coffee. “I pay my rent, but yet, I actually have to seek refuge in a cafe.” I was grumpy. I took a brisk walk to my favourite cafe, Caffe Habitu located on Queen’s Road East, which was barely 5 minutes away.

To my disappointment, what greeted me was no longer a cup of hot mocha and soothing music, but debris and half-naked men who were working hard on the renovation. A few months ago, I had arranged for a business meeting at Starbucks on the 4th level of Pacific Place, without realising that it had been closed down. Now, as it seemed, Caffe Habitu had suffered the same fate. The cafe was longer in operation.

I made my way to Starbucks at ground floor of Pacific Place, found a comfortable seat and began doing my work. Barely 5 minutes later, the familiar drilling noise haunted me. Part of Pacific Place was undergoing renovation. Damn. Isn’t there a place where it is quiet and, for once, not changing?

Within the same week, I heard from my friends about the closure of some of the places that I used to frequent. Spuntini is closed (ugh, I haven’t got to try their famous roasted chicken). So is a herbal tea shop. I have two favourite bubble-tea shops in Hong Kong but one had went out of business while the other is slowly shutting down one outlet after another. The Fortress outlet (a store selling electronic products) near my place has been replaced by a Mercedes-Benz show room.  What else? I begin to wonder.

Hong Kong has an impressive rate of high turnover. My personal observation tells me that a business owner decides his/her fate within 3 months of initial operations. Shops open and close, faster than anyone can appreciate their presence. Is that a sign of giving up, a tough economy or the need to cope with new business trends?

This is how people live in Hong Kong. On the bright side, new shops welcome us every now and then. There are so much to explore and plenty of new things to keep boredom really far away from us. As for the downside, we do not seem to have much room to be sentimental and appreciative. As forward-looking as I can be, I hope this will not be the era where we constantly expect the new but brutally kick away the old.