After settling into temporary Hong Kong life, my IFP colleagues and I were ready to split into our various groups for the sake of starting assignments with select NGOs across the city* over the next seven weeks. Most of the organizations we’re working with have a human rights advocacy element within their overall missions, and while we’ll each be responsible for different types of job assignments most of us will be completing media specific projects for them. I found out early on that I would be placed with KELY Support Group, the only English language-based youth advocacy organization with an anti-drug use focus in HK, and Designing Hong Kong, one of the city’s most sustainable urban planning organizations. (*Sidebar: I still haven’t figure out how to refer to HK, as a city or a state, but looking it up on Wikipedia, I see that it is considered a “city-state.” City-state is defined as: An independent or autonomous entity, not administered as a part of another local government, whose territory consists of a city and possibly its surrounding territory; a city-state can also be defined as a central city and its surrounding villages, which together follow the same law, have one form of government, and share languages, religious beliefs, and ways of life. Despite formally being under the sovereign rule of mainland China, as of now HK functions with a great deal of autonomy. In essence, Hong Kong, along with Macau, represents the Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China. Now that I’ve gotten the technicalities out of the way….!)
…My colleagues and I spent Monday and Tuesday getting acclimated with KELY Support Group, an NGO whose acronym stands for Kids Everywhere Like You that was established twenty-three years ago. As a positive peer pressure safe space, teens are trained on how to influence one another’s decisions to reject the choice to use drugs. Reportedly, drug use among teens is pretty high in HK due to many pressures that the youth face and relatively easy access to illegal substances. Also because of these pressures, teens are apt to turn to other detrimental behaviors sometimes leading to suicide; because of this KELY’s services include confidential counseling and suicide prevention. On the positive peace side of the spectrum, the organization’s other core values include engaging youth and young adults in the most supportive, empathetic, non-judgmental, and inclusive ways. As they host a range of programming throughout the year that includes self-esteem awareness and career development, we were invited to join three KELY staffers the following day at a local high school in Kwun Tong to meet students and interview a few of them on their achievements with the organization. The teens were as teens are all over the world: bright and full of comedic energy once the cameras were rolling AND once they stopped, yet ready to prove that they had opinions and insights of great value to share from their 15, 16 and 17 year old perspectives.
I returned to the KELY office later in the week on a solo mission to collaborate with them on their social media and online presence. Attending the N3 Media and Journalism Conference last weekend really helped me prepare for the work I’ll be doing with the KELY communications team. As it turns out, one of my cohorts mentioned that she’d actually heard about N3Con but was unable to attend, so it was really cool that I could share what I had experienced and turn her onto their website/YouTube page so that she could review the videos at her leisure. It seems that I was also preparing for this assignment over the course of my last semester when I spent 15 weeks doing research on Black Twitter for my Qualitative Research Methods class. Because of the concerted effort I put into all things Twitter and social media over the last five months, I feel that I am especially equipped to pull together a useful strategy for KELY. This assignment will definitely be a learning experience for me, but I realize it will also be a teachable moment as I share the best of what I know about using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media to effectively promote an organization’s mission. So I look forward to the next month and a half working while with this team.
Wednesday, my other group of colleagues and I met up with a team from Designing Hong Kong to go out to the New Territories. The ten hour day in the field trip included trekking out to explore three villages, Ho Chung – split into an hybrid older and newer village, the hidden farming community traditional village of Pak Sha O that felt like something of a whimsical jewel of unspoiled land from another time period (or a movie set), and the beachside marine village of Hoi Ha Wan.
Before we even reached the villages, our exploration began at the Old Chekung Temple which I found completely fascinating.
It looks like we may end up doing a video awareness project based on some of the social aspects of the villages, but it remains to be seen. There is a lot to brainstorm and discuss, but it definitely presents a rich creative challenge that I believe we’re all up for. The week before the fieldtrip, we had the pleasure of meeting with DHK founder Paul Zimmerman, who had a bit of a Sir Richard Branson vibe, in my opinion, which is totally cool considering my appreciation of all things Branson humanitarian and all things brand Virgin. Listening to Zimmerman, formerly a Hollander turned naturalized Chinese citizen, explain his passion to develop Hong Kong into a more sustainable and diplomatic version of itself reminded me of how a person can truly be a citizen of the world and work towards its betterment, no matter their country of birth.
Nearing the end of a high impact work week, World Cup was set to begin in Sao Paolo, Brasil; but given the time difference, this meant that if any of us were going to catch the opening match as scheduled, we’d have to venture out to one of the local bars at 3AM. Two of us did just that! As my colleague Michael put it, we woke up “after only one cycle of REM sleep!” and headed out to a well-known Irish Pub called Delaney’s in Wanchai not to far from our accommodations. Of our thirteen IFPers, only he and I made it to the pub shortly after 3AM, and I’d be lying if I didn’t have a thought in the back of my mind like, WTF am I doing out here like this! But the excitement of experiencing something completely knew and even a bit celebratory had me all in! (Sidebar: When I texted my mom a pic of me and my beer during the opening match between Brasil and Croatia, her response was something to the effect of …You don’t drink beer and you don’t watch sports!! “…But I know ain’t no celebration gonna get past you! You will find a way to embrace that celebration with ‘Gusto’”, which I basically did!)
The bar itself was welcoming albeit freezing with the air con blasting wayyy too high for so early in the morning. I did manage to sip on one beer the entire two and a half hours while I shivered under my sheer pashmina that did little in the way of warmth. But the warm atmosphere was totally worth the physically chilly experience. The bar was packed with British and Americans with a couple of Russians and maybe Australians(?) all ready for World Cup show time (which of course was in Chinese. On top of the excitement of the first match and first score being made by Croatia who was ultimately defeated by Brasil (as was to be expected!), Michael and I came across a whole host of characters ranging from hooligans and louts in silly “stag sombreros” (one was getting married in a few days) to working women from Tanzania and Thailand. I had a short conversation with a trendy guy from Russia who was hoping to buy property in Dubai sometime in the future, and there was one other fútbol fan whom I believed to be from the U.S. but I didn’t get to chat with him at length because he left due to an early work schedule later that morning.
Schlepping back to Kapok Apartments where we’re living for the next few weeks, the sun had risen over Wanchai and I again wondered, WTF am I doing out here! But, I was headed to bed… and it was the perfect ending to a productive week. Work hard, play harder, as the ones who have the most fun like to say!