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Architecture and Design

HK Express livery design competition sees teen winners jet off to Japan, fulfilling their childhood dreams of flight

More than 70 budding young artists take part in contest that sought to reach out to city’s underprivileged

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 2:18pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 2:18pm

With hot-air balloons, flying helmets and a pair of hands in the shape of a bird, Chan Pak-fung used all the images of flight his mind could muster to dream up an aircraft livery design, even though the teenager had never taken a plane in his life.

“I imagined looking closely at what the sky is like when I painted it, and how it feels to fly,” says the 18-year-old, who comes from a low-income Hong Kong family.

Chan says he fantasises about aircraft, and his imagination runs wild every time he hears classmates talking about their experiences of travelling by plane, or showing photos of a trip.

But his dreams are about to become a reality. Chan will finally get on a plane and visit Japan – a place that has inspired his art and design – along with five other teenagers from local underprivileged families.

The secondary school pupils will begin their five-day trip on July 4, after they won budget airline Hong Kong Express’ aircraft livery design competition to devise an idea for a “happy journey”.

Wu Fengru, 16, who only moved to Hong Kong two years ago with her mother and siblings, opted to draw butterflies and birds to indicate happiness, because she said “they look so free, so at ease when flying in the sky”.

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“When I think of happiness, I have images of butterflies, birds and people on an aeroplane in my mind,” Wu said. “With wings or planes, they are free to go wherever they want.”

Such visions of freedom stand in contrast to Wu’s real life. The Form Four pupil lives with her parents and three other siblings, all of whom are still adapting to the hustle and bustle of life in the city.

“Both of my parents work hard day and night, but I am still happy that the whole family can finally reunite in Hong Kong, and gets to stay together,” Wu wrote in her application for the competition.

Statistics from the government’s Hong Kong Poverty Situation report show 1.35 million of the city’s 7.35 million residents live below the official poverty line, meaning one in five are considered poor. The poverty line for households with three people is HK$15,000 (US$1,910).

Chan, the eldest of three children in a family living in public rental housing, says he feels lucky his parents have always been supportive of his dream to pursue a career in design.

“They used to buy me crayons and coloured pencils when I was a kid,” he says.

The Form Six pupil, who recently sat the Diploma of Secondary Education exams, is planning to apply for an art and design programme in college.

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“I never expected I’d get a chance to go to Japan,” Chan says.

He is looking forward to visiting art exhibitions and cosplay shows there.

“I really hope this trip can be inspiring for me as I enter the next phase of my life.”

Kicking off at the end of May, the competition lasted seven days and drew more than 70 participants, aged between 14 and 19.

Seeking to help underprivileged families, the organiser reached out to local secondary schools for recommendations on pupils who either had outstanding performances in class or were from families receiving subsidies from the government.

The official Commission on Poverty last year announced new measures under which underprivileged Hong Kong families would be able to apply for subsidies when moving into shared flats, and receive a monthly allowance to rent housing in the private sector.