Women’s Community Network Program

Different districts have their own characteristics and needs. In districts with a majority of working class people, despite the support from social service organisations, disadvantaged groups still need further support, in addition to those that help them meet basic living needs. This is how the “Women’s Community Network Project” came into being: the team partnered with social service organisations in Sham Shui Po and Kwun Tong, to train female residents to become community guides.This project aims to help women from disadvantaged groups explore personal potentials and develop their community network, through training their social and community participation skills.

Participants were introduced to the concept of community storytelling as an empowerment process, which can help marginalised groups share tales about their lives. One of our goals was to help them find their roles in contributing to the public domain, while realising their own capabilities and values.In the course, participants learned communication skills which can be applied to improve interpersonal relations in daily livesOur project also provided vocational training elements: in addition to the training, participants were encouraged to take up a part-time role as a community guide with us. Every trained guide participating in this project receives a competitive part-time salary.

We have trained more than 20 female tour guides in two districts. Most of the mothers living in subdivided apartments are immigrants who have lived in Hong Kong for more than ten years, and most of them have one or two children. They faced various challenges when learning to become a guide. For example, the guided tour in Sham Shui Po was launched during the epidemic and these ladies had to lead their first tour online Also, we guided the guides from Kwun Tong in discovering their own stories with creative methods, such as interviewing each other in their own apartments, talking about their daily habits, people they see and places they go every day. The responses were collected and summarised in “post-it” notes for routes design. As a result, two routes were jointly created, surrounding the lives of mothers living in subdivided housing units, with one focusing on grocery shopping and another on leisure time in the park. To understand these mothers better, “experience sessions” were arranged to allow tour participants to be empathetic of community guides’ situations. These sessions included bargaining at the market and spending time in a subdivided unit of apartment, in order to provide the public with a better understanding of this group of ladies.

“Cross-district exchange” is one major feature in our project, which encourages tour guides to participate in guided tours led by each other, establishing relational networks with women living in nearby districts. Through group discussion and story sharing, it helped broaden our female participants’ horizons and learning opportunities in terms of utilising social resources and building meaningful community relationships. For example, the mothers brought their kids who grew up in Kwun Tong to join a tour led in West Kowloon, where both parents and their children got to learn about West Kowloon that they were unfamiliar with.

Participants using Post-It notes to help explain the content and design routes

Using the aid of post-it memos, tour guides discuss, summarise research findings and design routes.

Participants buying groceries with a limited budget and negotiate with store owners.

The combination of training and guided tours helped our female participants to expand their networks of peers with a similar background. They made meaningful community relationships within and outside of their own district. They also repositioned themselves as a storyteller which affirmed their confidence and sense of belonging to the district. The project achieved several learning outcomes among participants, which included improved storytelling and communication skills, as well as nurturing a positive mindset and a sense of responsibility in face of challenges, trials-and-errors and disagreements. Despite their busy schedules, participants were committed to organising and preparing for the tours. Their sincere stories have deepened the public’s understanding of the grassroot groups and have inspired empathy and reflection from the tour attendees. A group of tour attendees were physiotherapy students, who expressed gratitude to these mothers for providing insights about the living environments of patients and inspired a positive momentum towards promoting social inclusion in the community.

Ah Mei leading a community tour