14 Oct Helping Hong Kong’s squatters: Chairman Wan, Kai Fong Welfare Association 摩星嶺街坊福利會會長尹洪輝
Sai Wan Stories; memories of HK’s oldest public housing estate
In Kennedy Town you find Hong Kong oldest surviving public estate. 640 units in five blocks built in a rocky hill side, Sai Wan Estate is a living memory of the city’s first big housing crisis. Thousands of people moved here ‘temporarily’ in 1958 fleeing war and unrest, but many never left. Sai Wan Estate is a micro-cosmos of post-war Hong Kong, a place of survivors where the community spirit thrives. We met with some long-time residents. We learned about their hopes, dreams and memories. Hear their stories, learn what they love. Now, let’s talk about Mr. Wan and the Kai Fong Welfare Association of Mount Davis.
“People were so nice, most of them said yes immediately and even asked if they needed to pay membership fee. We didn’t ask for a penny and got our 108 quota within one night.”
Say Sai Wan Estate and Mount Davis’s welfare group immediately springs to mind. We always wondered why it’s there? We caught up with the chairman Mr. Wan to find out, he explains: “The association was established in 1955 for the Mount Davis squatter area. We were set up to serve the residents and the community, in Cantonese we call it Kaifong. Back in the days, welfare associations were a key to survival for many. We’d distribute clothes to elderly during winter, provide shelter during disasters, and even build infrastructure like lamp posts, chairs, fire extinguishers in the neighbourhood. We gave scholarships, we gave allowances for families of immigrants who died – sometimes more than one thousand dollars – we set up kindergarten and ran Chinese and Western medical clinics. We were like a mini government; the Governor would come and visit us personally.
Fight for survival
“When the squatter village was demolished we asked the government for a place to stay, we did not want these valuable community networks to be lost. They compensated the residents during the demolishment, why not compensate us? The government said if we could get 108 households in Sai Wan Estate to agree, we could set up the welfare association in the estate. 108 households equals to one sixth of the estate, so we knocked on everyone’s doors to introduce our mission and services. People were so nice, most of them said yes immediately and even asked if they needed to pay membership fee. We didn’t ask for a penny and got our 108 quota within one night. This is why you find Mount Davis Kai-fong Welfare Association at Sai Wan Estate.”
New era of welfare
“After moving here, we connected with residents in the estate through calligraphy, singing, and drawing classes, relatively quiet activities compared to Mount Davis days when we had ping-pong and football for the youngsters. Many elderly residents prefer indoor activities. We now accept members across the entire city. It’s cheap to become a member and you get a lot of benefits. We offer pun choi, small gifts, sometimes we organise travel trips at low rates. It’s a different form of welfare, but mission stays the same: “pursue welfare for kaifong and improve their living condition”, residents are always our priority.”
These stories about Mr. Wan and the Kai Fong Welfare Association were curated by Caritas Mok Cheung Sui Kun Community Centre and iDiscover, and exhibited at Little Creatures, a restaurant in the neighbourhood.
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