Not quite in the back of beyond – Tung Chung Reimagined

Having had experiences with organising tours in central redeveloping urban areas, it is time for our team to discover new districts and expand our community network in the periphery of the city. Our project this time involves Tung Chung, a district where urban and urban landscapes co-exist. In cooperation with Kerry Group Kuok Foundation, it was a three-year long community development project. Tung Chung, as a satellite city, with its geographical location to a certain degree isolated from the rest of the city, is not a district most Hong Kong people are familiar with. Outsiders usually associate it only with Chek Lap Kok Airport, and they rarely travel to such remote districts except for work purposes. Even within Tung Chung, where a fair amount of new immigrants and ethnic minorities live, there are not a lot of interactions between these groups. The lack of job opportunities within the district result in most residents commuting to other places for work, which make it more difficult for them to spend time engaging themselves in the community.

Through a wide variety of community engagement activities, we aimed to motivate residents to understand potential issues and to build connections among themselves, cultivating a sense of belongingness to the district. The project involves training and participant-initiated activities, where we hope to provide ideas and solutions, so that the locals become more actively engaged in their social surroundings. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Corresponding to this principle, we hoped to equip participants with leadership and planning skills, which can be applied to both their professional and community aspects of life. We also want to motivate them to initiate changes for themselves and the neighbourhood, becoming more aware and involved in the community affairs. The ideal is to create a more connected community with an improved sense of well-being and sustainability in development.

With a year-based planning approach, the project progressed over three years in exploring Tung Chung. In the first two years, we set up streetbooths more than 20 times and organised over 30 community visits and observation trips. This allowed us to understand the community experiences of different stakeholders, including neighbours, local stores, organisations. We collected their stories as first-hand data for designing new tour routes and strategising our expansion of community networks. The community guides training was set out to be people-oriented in responding to community issues and needs of residents, in which job seekers from marginalised background or low-income groups, including young adults, women and retirees, were recruited to become tour guides. The training was tailored according to participants’ background and preferences. For example, routes were designed according to their affiliations and interests, thus categorised into different themes, such as “livelihoods and quality of living”, “urban planning”, “environmental preservation”, “history and cultural diversity”, as well as “community inclusion”. By the end of 2021, we trained three large groups of participants to become guides who had led more than 20 community tours in Tung Chung.

In addition to the guided tours, mentoring program, thematic further training,cross-regional exchange activities and regional sharing sessions, etc. were organised for internship and continuous learning opportunities. The goal was to encourage participants, having acquired new knowledge and skills, to initiate personal development and even small-scale community services as contributions to the community.

The program is not only dedicated to community building, but is also a process of promoting community advocacy. Our team encouraged community guides, local residents and public participants to understand the current condition and needs of the community, in order to inspire their awareness and reflection about Tung Chung. Through teaching knowledge, methods and values, participants expand their imagination and explore possibilities to bring good to the community through projects. It broke the boundaries of conventional social service, utilising education as a resource for sustainable development instead of simply one-time financial aid. With education being core of the program, trainees and other stakeholders were inspired and connected, finding themselves a role and a sense of belongingness. The community networks established in the project will serve as a core platform for social development, providing community resources for further connection and participation.

03. Feedback from participants about Tung Chung collected at street booths

“I’d like to have more social faciliaties in this district.”
“Our district is a calm and comfortable place.”
“Transport facilities are essential a community and bus stops are especially important.”
“We are somehow responsible for improving our lives in the community.”
“Why not more flowers and greens in our district?”
“I like traveling to Tung Chung with my kids on days off.”
“I’d like my friend to also like Tung Chung and lead tours with me in the future.”
“It’s hard to afford a domestic helper when the rent here is high.”