Ken Ho Chung-man believes the power of art can uplift people, including those with special needs. The 37-year-old integrated artist, who writes musicals and teaches multimedia production skills, is keen to set the stage for bringing out the best in individuals living with intellectual disabilities. He has cast adults with intellectual disabilities in theatre shows and a cappella performances, such as the series titled Amazing Concert For Stories. “I want to help them build their personal identities through art,” Ho said, adding the training in theatre had given members of his troupe an opportunity to discover their strengths and express themselves. He attached importance to their personal development, as opposed to stage success. “My team does not see the staging of a public performance as an end,” he said. The playwright wrote his first show in 2015, aiming to use the creation as a platform for telling the stories of people with intellectual disabilities. He said the storylines of his works were based on the dialogues with these individuals. In Fantastic, a musical, Ho’s cast celebrated courage and love, which are deemed crucial to one’s dealing with personal difficulties in life. He is now the head of the Dancing Heart Troupe, a dance group composed of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Ho also teaches media art to students living with special needs in the city. His work has earned him a nomination for a Spirit of Hong Kong Awards. The annual event, co-organised by the South China Morning Post and property developer Sino Group, honours the achievements of remarkable people whose endeavours may not come to public notice. Chu Fung-ling, a friend, has recommended him for the Spirit of Culture Award, which recognises individuals who inspire those to preserve Hong Kong’s legacy or celebrate its heritage and traditions. Ho, who had developed an interest in art since high school, began his career as a social worker. He said he had gained a better understanding of the needs of people with intellectual disabilities after working with them at St James’ Settlement, a non-governmental charitable organisation. Spirit of Hong Kong Awards return to honour unsung heroes of the community In addition to helping his troupe members find their own identities, the artist said he wanted to empower them to take charge of their own lives. Ho said he believed those with mild intellectual disabilities were able to train to do various non-technical jobs in the expansive field of art. “They can give demonstrations to students in a dance course and help them practise as dance partners,” he said. Arts have rarely been considered a viable career option for people with disabilities in Hong Kong, according to Ho. He said he hoped to help make a change in these individuals’ lives. It was only after these individuals had secured jobs that their loving and attentive parents, who would be ageing, could truly let go of them, he said.