The Hong Kong restaurant owner feeding the elderly and homeless despite rejection and cynicism
Chan Cheuk-ming nominated for Spirit of Hong Kong award as Pei Ho Counterparts continues to make difference in the community
While many Hong Kong restaurants are famous for their signature dishes, Pei Ho Counterparts in Sham Shui Po is known for its philanthropic work.
The popular food joint, situated near Pei Ho Street, feeds the elderly and the homeless for free.
Last year, Pei Ho Counterparts distributed 64,385 free meal boxes to underprivileged elderly people and those living alone at public housing estates in the district, and street-sleepers in Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Jordan.
The restaurant’s owner, Chan Cheuk-ming, who is affectionately known by staff and friends as Ming Gor, or older brother Ming, likes to compare his charitable work to fixing a wok.
“It may take some time for the government to process social welfare claims,” he said “We just do what we can to fix what’s missing in the community, like fixing holes in a wok.”
Chan’s charitable work began in 2008, when the restaurant owner partnered with the Society for Community Organisation to create meal coupons for the poor.
The scheme started as a way to attract more business, but it became the first step into what Chan is doing now.
As the community safety net provided by Pei Ho Counterparts has grown in size, and featured greater varieties of assistance, Chan and colleagues in his volunteer team set up the Pei Ho (Ming Gor) Charity Foundation in 2016.
The mission of the charity is to promote community development and help Hong Kong’s needy, while also encouraging good behaviour and civic responsibility among Hongkongers.
“The operation of a foundation requires transparency, which would be helpful in making people understand our work and creating a good work relationship with the community,” said Kenneth Foo Wai-kwong, a director at the foundation.
“It’s important to retain their trust as we engage with the people we want to help.”
For their efforts, Pei Ho Counterparts has been nominated by the South China Morning Post for its Spirit of Hong Kong Awards, which honour inspirational individuals and groups that make the city a better place to live.
The Post has recommended the restaurant for the Lion Rock Entrepreneur award, which recognises corporations that have succeeded despite difficult circumstances.
Chan and his team of volunteers have been turned away by people they wanted to help. They have also been criticised for offering helping indiscriminately, and making individuals too reliant on social support.
But Chan said he was never troubled by these responses.
He also speaks lightly about the experience of being forced to close his business for a short period because of soaring rents about two years ago.
Good-hearted neighbours helped him out and let their shop to him, allowing Pei Ho Counterparts to continue its charitable work, the restaurant owner said.
“I never aim to make big profits, but my business is still viable. It’s OK as long as I can afford to pay the rents and my staff,” he said.
Chan, also a director at the foundation, stressed that the charity’s administration cost have been very low.
“I want to set an example for other social service organisations and encourage them to cut down the administration cost,” he said.