The Long Road To Mandalay (via Hong Kong) Part 2
Sunday 25th September
Didn’t sleep too much, but cheered up by the stunning view from my room looking across the bay – sun shining – hooray.
After breakfast I left the air conditioned hotel lobby – once again taken by surprise by the outside heat – whew. Great sight as masses of cyclists whizzed by taking part in a closed road event – I wondered if I should have tried to borrow a bike and enter the event, but reckoned maybe not, as heat, tiredness and general disorientation meant I was doing all I could to stay upright.
No rest for the wicked and off on our first of three visits to local Social Enterprises, the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association.
Senior Citizen Home Safety Association
The SCHSA was formed in 1996 by a group of passionate individuals, in response to a prolonged cold spell during which more than one hundred elderly people living alone were found dead. The Association is a self-financing social enterprise and charitable organization in Hong Kong that offers 24-hour personal caring and emergency assistance services to the elderly and others in need through their core service, Personal Emergency Link, with the mission to enhance the living quality of the elderly in the community through the use of technology and people-oriented services.
The Manager Wendy, previously enjoyed a very successful career in the IT industry and had used her knowledge and contacts, to lever support from companies within this sector, to ensure that their service kept up to date with the latest technological developments. They exist in competition with 4 commercial operations and so they must offer the best service to be sustainable. They also offer volunteer befriending and a similar phone based befriending service. Wendy was very interested to hear about some of the great older people support services in Dundee (such as DialOp) and I promised to send her the contact details for these.
Wendy also was concerned at the lack of contact and engagement by people of different generations within HK. So she used her IT expertise to design an interactive learning resource aimed at young people, known as the Life Journey Experience. You gain your boarding card on entry and are then taken through a series of rooms, where each represents the various phases of a person’s life journey. It uses clever interactive games and activities to show how your body and mind changes over the years, and demonstrates the positive and negative aspects of ageing. The final part of the journey, involved me having to go into a very realistic coffin, where the lid closed and a video screen above my face, showed me my final moments – it was quite a challenge for me to face this, as I have had real fears about death from my early childhood.
Passengers on the life journey are then taken to a room to meet older people and they share and reflect with each other on how they felt about what they had experienced. The feedback board in the foyer, I think clearly demonstrated that the young people had found it a hugely powerful and informative experience.
Then on to the next Social Enterprise visit – feeling dizzy with the heat and jet lag – but can’t rest – want to savour every moment of this wonderful experience.
Green Ladies / Green Littles
Travelled to a busy commercial/residential area of Hong Kong Island and entered a fairly plain shopping centre. Then arrived at what I initially thought was a Gap store, with modern and stylish fixtures, layout and signage. In fact it was a social enterprise second hand shop, that generates income for the St James Charity which works with people with a range of support needs. The shop is called Green Ladies, with their brand being ‘I Second’.
The shop was initially run on a conventional charity shop basis, but they decided to follow a consignee model, where they very carefully vet incoming clothes and jewellery, rejecting anything that doesn’t meet their required standards. Consignors receive payment for their items, although some may choose to donate them for no fee. The shop initially offered only woman’s clothes, but now also stocks kids’ stuff – with the new brand of Green Littles. They have grown from that first shop and now have another 4 across HK. Another key aspect of their ethos is that they want to avoid waste and it certainly was an unusual marketing message to find in a retail changing room – ‘Do You Really Need This Item’. Older people within HK can find it very difficult to find employment and so the store has made it an explicit policy, to employ people of this generation – and this is helping to highlight what a positive contribution they can make to the workforce.
(Great website, but be patient as it takes a wee while to load)
Then on once again, to the IBakery for lunch. It is a very professionally run cafe, which trains people with a range of support needs for careers in the catering and hospitality industries. We had a lovely meal with our neighbouring table being occupied by a very lively group from South Korea, who were obviously excited about being in town for the Social Enterprise World Forum. The café was situated in the corporate quarter and we were surrounded by towering buildings of every shape and design, including 2 which were meant to look like pandas – I think I’ll reserve judgement on that one.
Till the next blog!
See part three HERE!
Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don’t represent those of the Dundee Social Enterprise Network organisation,
The Long Road To Mandalay (via Hong Kong) Part 1
The Travel & Arrival
Friday 23rd September
Derek and myself set off from Dundee on Friday morning and met colleagues at Glasgow Airport – a mixture of people from the Scottish Government, and other third sector support organisations.
Flight was on time and surprisingly roomy, with some spare seats, so chance to stretch out. Great on-board entertainment system, which included real time route map. An App showed compass bearing to Mecca to allow people to orientate themselves for Morning Prayers – I had never encountered this, but of course this was Emirates Airline. Map showed countries and cities that we were passing close to – including Ukraine and Aleppo – difficult to reconcile travelling in such comfortable conditions, whilst underneath people were enduring such horrors. Then watched a couple of films, including a very black comedy set during the recent war in Bosnia – really evoked memories of my time working there with Edinburgh Direct Aid.
Arrived in Abu Dhabi feeling ok, but 32deg at midnight. A bit surreal sitting in the terminal building at a Costa Café, under a real palm tree, with people from what seemed like every nation, rushing by.
People joined our group who had travelled from other starting points. A lively 3am discussion ensued as we waited at the departure gate, on the merits of an Asset Lock, and in general what makes a true social enterprise – as ever no consensus.
Next flight was on a double decker Airbus – we were in ‘steerage’ class of course, whilst VIPs enjoyed their upstairs luxuries – still felt pretty good to me. Feeling a bit sleepy, but watched the Revenant, which told the tale of a trapper’s fight for survival in the bleak Canadian winter – unrelenting from the very start, with dangers from wild grizzlies, native warriors, and just about everyone and everything seemed to be out to kill poor Leonardo.
Saturday 24th September
Woken with a dig in the ribs from Derek, saying breakfast was coming – felt completely disorientated with sun streaming in the aircraft window and being presented with rice porridge, topped off with spring onion and prawns – unusually for me I couldn’t even face it.
Started our descent into Hong Kong (some 19 hrs after setting off from Glasgow) and immediately could see the airport, which had been built on ground snatched from the ocean – probably better however than landing the old airport, which was situated right in the centre of the city and where people recount tales of virtually being able to reach out and grab roof top washing lines.
As I passed through the customs area I was scanned by a person looking for people who might be showing signs of the Zika virus – I must have been looking rough. Bus into the centre of Hong Kong and a great commentary from our guide, who updated us on the building works that seemed to be happening everywhere. He pointed out the new station building that was nearing completion, which would mark the end of the line from Beijing to Hong Kong – it would transform a journey that currently took 2 days, to one where you could breakfast in one city and dine that same evening in the other.
We had a brief time to freshen up in our rooms and then met with our tour organisers, Gerry and Johnnie from Community Enterprise in Scotland. There was a really eclectic mix of people in our tour party, with some of the most eminent people in the field of social enterprise, from Scotland, England, USA, Italy, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – not for the first time I wondered if I was out of my depth. We were then joined by my colleague Raymond, who by a very happy coincidence was visiting family in Hong Kong. Raymond took us out into the bustling evening streets and we found a restaurant, which offered a range of western foods and some that I’m not quite sure what it was – I did however recognise a picture on the menu of a whole pigeon (including its head and feet) – passed up on that one.
Raymond took us on a brief tour and we promptly got lost – understandable really, as since the last time Raymond had visited HK several years earlier, more of the Bay had been reclaimed and the city had advanced by a number of blocks. We eventually found the waterfront area and looked across the bay to HK Island, which was quite simply the most stunning city scape I had ever witnessed. Everyone looked shattered and so reluctantly we bade Raymond good night.
See part two HERE!
Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don’t represent those of the Dundee Social Enterprise Network organisation.