From 29-30 January, Hope of the City ran our second SSP Xperience in Sham Shui Po. Last year’s event was an evening encounter with real life in Sham Shui Po, but this time we expanded the experience to include an overnight stay at Mei Ho House youth hostel. We were thrilled to have 30 people sign up to join us for a guided ‘service tour’ of the district which is the focus of Hope’s work.
Things got underway at 7pm on Friday with a short briefing and a quick bite of local cuisine – Cha Sui and 'bak tong go'. Then everyone headed out in groups of 2-3 to visit low-income families living in sub-divided homes and bring them some Chinese New Year snacks. The next stop was the J-Life Community Centre, where we met up with Chau Gor, who has been serving the homeless for many years. He introduced the next part of the SSP experience, dropping in on the many street sleepers living under a nearby flyover. We prepared some hot ginger tea and warm clothing to take with us, and spent some time distributing these among the street sleepers, engaging with those who were up for some conversation.
It was well after 10:30pm before we circled back through the darkened streets of SSP, passing the many impromptu flea market vendors and scores of electronics recyclers on our way to the Shek Kip Mei Estate dai pai dong for a late meal of steamed egg, clay pot veg and other SSP specialties. The meal provided the opportunity for everyone to share their impressions and hear more from two of our faithful local partners, Chau Gor, from Christian Concern for the Homeless, and Elli, from J-Life. The night ended (for those who still had the energy) with a hike up the hill behind Mei Ho House for prayer on the mount after midnight.
The next day began with interviews and a Q&A session with three special guests: Elli shared her personal story, followed by testimonies from a mother of three and a young former triad member, both of whom saw their lives changed after receiving help from a Hope-funded community centre.
To give our participants a glimpse of what life is like for those with very little money, we decided to host an Amazing Race-type of shopping assignment. Teams of 2-3 people each received HK$50 with which they had to purchase the ingredients to make two nutritious meals for a family of four (this sort of budget is a daily reality for many low-income families in SSP). The winning team received a Feeding Hong Kong cookbook of low budget meals.
The final event of the SSP Xperience was a stop at a soup kitchen run by Christian Concern for the Homeless. There, we had the chance to meet the ‘Buddies’ who regularly turn to the soup kitchen for a hot meal. We played a stimulating game together, and then helped to serve lunch, interacting with the Buddies as we enjoyed the nutritious food.
Before leaving the soup kitchen to go our separate ways, we took a few moments for some heart-felt sharing about what participants were taking away from the experience. Here are some of their comments:
'Amazingly, it was a much more powerful experience than I imagined.' - William C.
'Talking to Elli and joining the home visit were definitely among the most important lessons I’ve had in life.' - Tracy L.
I think the entire event was very well organized, and we especially enjoyed the testimonials and the stay at Mei Ho House.' - Candace W.