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City Weekend

Making space for Hong Kong NGOs

Empty store in Sham Shui Po gets put to good use, helping groups without places to work to provide community services

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 August, 2017, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 August, 2017, 5:32pm

In the city with the world’s most expensive housing market, Jackaline Chow convinced her family to let a community group use their 700 sq ft store space in Sham Shui Po for a month, for free.

Chow, whose family runs a hardware business, said the ground-floor space on Tai Nan Street had been empty for months as the area transformed from an industrial one to a trendier spot with more coffee shops and craft stores. She said she was unsure why the space had been vacant, but speculated that it might not have suited the changing local business scene.

“I’ve always wanted to make use of the space to do some community projects, but it’s difficult with just one person,” she said.

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But a few months ago, Chow met Sarah Mui Sze-wai, founder of One Bite Social, a community group under design firm One Bite Design Studio, which organises public and private networking events.

Chow and Mui and some others came up with Project House, a community matching programme to join up more than 10 organisations to provide different community services, like free haircuts, a vertical playground and refurbishing and upcycling services, from August 14 to September 9 at Chow’s store.

Mui said she was thankful for Chow’s generosity. “Although it’s a vacant store, it’s their property that they could lease out at any time to make money,” she said.

She said there were lots of vacant stores in Sham Shui Po that could be used, and said some NGOs had told her they had trouble finding places to serve the community. And that was the gap she wanted Project House to bridge, she said.

Chow, who was born and raised in Sham Shui Po, said some stores on Tai Nan Street had been vacant for one to two years.

“When I raised the idea of holding some community events there, my family were very supportive,” she said.

Mui said Sham Shui Po was just the first step for Project House, as there were many vacant stores and empty spaces in other districts which they could make good use of.