Tackling Poverty One Lunch at a TimeWritten by Hayden L
Based in the Sham Shui Po district of Hong Kong, Ming Gor runs a restaurant with a difference.
Chan Cheuk-ming (best known as Ming Gor) has been feeding the homeless in Hong Kong since 2008. Far from your average restaurateur, his approach to his business has been to forgo profit for good – with extraordinary effects. A chance discovery that his local Pei Ho Barbecue Restaurant was up for sale in 1997 led to his purchase of it – and just under a decade later, Ming Gor transformed the endeavour into one wholly focused on charity. In 2008, he started to feed the homeless and has since established himself as a beacon of local giving and force for good, providing daily lunchboxes for those in need. Through his efforts, he hopes to tackle poverty issues and encourage others to do the same, “we work with limited resources so we are doing everything to inspire society to support our neighbours who are in need of help.”
Ming Gor partners with The Society for Community Organisation to create meal coupons for the poor priced at HK$22, and since his programme’s inception, he has tried every way in the book to keep costs low so that all of his efforts are focused on giving back to his community. In 2011, he cut his salary down to HKD$5,000 per month to provide for homeless people, and he has inspired others who know his work to also donate – several gave the money they received in the Government’s Scheme $6000 to his enterprise. Thanks to the help from others, his intention was to never increase his lunchbox prices. A rent hike last year, however, forced him to do so to HK$24.
What that $24 pays for is a freshly cooked daily meal prepared by Ming Gor’s staff purely for this scheme. What started as an initiative giving out 60 meals a day quickly picked up its pace. Today, Ming Gor and his team are responsible for distributing more than 200 lunchboxes daily. Quickly he realised that, however much people were in need, it was vital that his restaurant was seen to give honest cooked dishes specifically for them. “When you’re creating these dishes, you have to know who your customers are and what they like. Different people need different things – there is no single standard.”
A moment that stood out for him was when a person in a wheelchair rejected his lunchbox with a sharp ‘No!’ He recalls, “we were giving out salmon head to which the individual responded, ‘I don’t want anyone’s leftovers’. He began to insult me and then suddenly, he was hitting me.” As more people explained to him that salmon head was indeed a dish, and not actually leftovers, he realised that there was no cause for offence. “A few days later, I was surprised as he came up to me and accepted my lunchbox. From this experience, I learned to forgive and I have since made many friends because I don’t hold any grudges towards anyone.”
Early stage discussions are happening to bring his mission to other districts in Hong Kong, as Sham Shui Po is clearly not the only neighbourhood that needs help. Ming Gor explains, “we will duplicate what we are doing in Sham Shui Po and we hope that we can sustain what we are doing by looking for volunteers to support us. We will do more to encourage the youth to get back on the right track to help society and tackle poverty issues.” Even so, Ming Gor still feels that society and businesses as a whole could all do more to get on board with giving a little back. When asked how else we could help, he replies, “barbers can help give free haircuts to the elderly and the people in need. Teachers can give free tutoring to young people in need. If everyone helps out, things will change.”
54 Pei Ho Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong