Ordinary Hongkongers find a platform to share their inspirational tales
Tracy Ho believes everyone has a special story to tell – and the success of her Facebook page has proved her right
Most people who end up in traditional print media have an extraordinary story to tell. Whether it’s inspirational, encouraging, courageous, outrageous, these are the stories the media feel people want to see.
In the last two decades, the internet and social media have bypassed the gatekeepers of traditional forms of media and are bringing stories to the people directly.
Hong Kong Stories was born entirely out of social media after its founder, Tracy Ho Chui-sze, decided that she wanted to tell her own story.
Ho, a Canadian-born Chinese, grew up on a public housing estate in To Kwa Wan after she moved to Hong Kong at age three. Her parents wanted her to have fluency in English and put her in an international school.
“I didn’t realise I was a little bit different until I was in Primary Four and I overheard some passing thing, ‘Tracy looks kind of poor’,” she said.
“The differences became even greater when I went to secondary school.”
She avoided bringing her friends to her home because she did not want them knowing she lived in a public housing estate.
“I lost a lot of self-confidence,” Ho said.
But things turned around during her university years, when she found people were friendly, helpful and kind – “I felt my confidence had come back”. She decided she wanted to tell her Hong Kong story in hopes of inspiring others, and shot a video.
To reach a wider audience, Ho started a Facebook page last year, and encouraged her teammates to upload their stories as well.
The reception on Facebook was positive and this encouraged Ho to continue. However, she decided to change from video to photographs and a print version of the story. This allowed for easier distribution of the stories and consumption by the audience.
“We just wanted to do something meaningful. I think everyone has a story – we can share it and it’s something special.”
Ho and her team tried to get stories from random people on the streets of Hong Kong but found it was extremely difficult to find anyone willing to publically open up. Eventually, people who had seen the first few stories contacted Hong Kong Stories and asked if they could tell their story.
Ho said she did not conduct sessions in a question and answer format but preferred the subject to think of the story they wanted to tell and simply narrate it.
One of the most inspirational stories submitted was that of Paralympian Ho Yuen-kei. Ho suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, which affects her heart and lung function and causes limb fatigue. Her condition requires her to be in a wheelchair.
Throughout her life, she has been in and out of hospitals. In her junior years, she had frequent bouts of pneumonia, which left her physically weak and feeling “very useless”.
Constantly requiring care and seeing other children “function normally”, she lost her self-confidence. But the love and care of her mother helped her get through her most difficult periods.
“I knew that although I was suffering greatly, I felt that my mother suffered even more. I am extremely thankful to her,” Ho said.
When she was healthy enough to take part in activities outside of school, Ho discovered boccia and joined the Hong Kong Paralympics team. She went on to win several medals and awards. Even though her conditioned worsened, it did not stop her from qualifying for the Rio Paralympic Games this year.
“It’s an inspiring story. Normal people find it difficult to function in a well-rounded or wholesome way, but for [Ho Yuen-kei] she’s still able to fight on,” Tracy Ho said.
Facebook responses to Ho Yuen-kei’s story were all positive. Many left messages saying, “add oil!” – a Cantonese phrase for encouragement. The post garnered over 230 “likes”.
Stories of people who had a challenging childhood but went on to become successful are a common theme among the various stories.
Vincent Chu suffered from severe asthma as a child and had mediocre grades. He felt neglected by his primary one teacher because of his academic performance. He cited an example that “had a great impact” on his psyche when the teacher gave out Christmas presents to everyone in class – except him. He felt he was “like an invisible person”.
“I thought I did not have an identity. I decided to give up on myself and was very unhappy,” he recalled.
His mother had him switch schools in hopes that it would improve his grades and his behaviour. Chu’s grades began to improve, and he credits his teacher for helping him turn things around.
“I feel that a teacher can influence a child enough to lose all of his self-confidence ... [and] can also have the power to bring [it] back,” he said.
Today, Chu is a civil engineer.
In a span of 14 months, the Hong Kong Stories Facebook page has told 150 stories and garnered over 23,500 likes. Its popularity led to the publishing of a book of the same title featuring 101 stories that sold out at this year’s book fair. A sequel is in the works.
The success of Hong Kong Stories has also prompted a major Chinese daily to use the stories as a way for its readers to learn English.
Tracy Ho said she hoped the stories wold inspire and uplift people and make them “think about people around them”.
Hong Kong Stories website: www.facebook.com/hongkongstories2015/