Amid the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, have you ever paused to discover the hidden gems and intriguing stories within your own neighborhood? Luke TAM, an HKUST alumnus and co-founder of Kaifong Tour, is on a mission to illuminate overlooked narratives. His social enterprise trains community tour guides, empowering them to preserve the city’s vibrant culture while fostering social bonds. Recognizing Luke's unwavering passion and dedication, HKUST has extended an invitation to him to co-create an innovative initiative aimed at cultivating a deep appreciation for the University and its surrounding communities. This collaborative effort has given rise to a highly anticipated community event known as HKUSTours.
Bringing People and Communities Closer Together
Luke, a 2015 graduate of the business school, is thrilled to utilize his experience to customize Kaifong-style tours (‘Kaifong’ means neighbourhood or neighbour in Cantonese) specifically for his alma mater, with the goal of reinforcing unity among HKUST members and adjacent communities. Fusing sightseeing and storytelling, Luke is determined to weave together treasured HKUST memories. “I’m driven to reveal human connections, collective memories, and intangible values for HKUST,” Luke says.
Mr. Wong, an HKUST facilities technician and HKUSTours guide, readily endorses the concept. "Having spent over 20 years at HKUST, I've gathered a wealth of anecdotes, including fascinating stories about landmarks like the wind tunnel research facility. I'm eager to share these with our visitors," he says. This enthusiasm is mirrored by Edwin, a retired staff member who devoted three decades to HKUST's library. "Upon retirement, our email domain changes to 'family.ust.hk', symbolizing HKUST as my second home. I'm thrilled to share HKUST's stories with a broader audience," he states.
Mr. Wong, an HKUST facilities technician and HKUSTours guide, readily endorses the concept. "Having spent over 20 years at HKUST, I've gathered a wealth of anecdotes, including fascinating stories about landmarks like the wind tunnel research facility. I'm eager to share these with our visitors," he says.
Luke's commitment to building stronger social connections can be traced back to his student years at HKUST. Majoring in Marketing and Information Systems, he discovered business was not just a profit engine, but could enhance social value. Indeed, Luke's endeavors have not only connected people to their communities, but also transformed lives for society in unexpected ways. In collaboration with a social welfare agency, Luke trained homeless people as tour guides. One such individual, estranged from his family and living in a park for nearly a decade due to a gambling addiction, shared his story and wish for family reconciliation during a tour. Touched by his story, a tourist facilitated a reunion with his daughter.
"After leading roughly 100 tours, the man now works as a senior docent at a homeless association, raising public awareness on homelessness and housing issues,” Luke says. For his significant impact on society, Luke earned the Spirit of Hong Kong Award in 2022, co-organized by a local media company and a property developer.
Birth of a Social Entrepreneur
Born and raised in Cheung Sha Wan, Luke's passion for being engaged in the community started from a young age. "We knew our community so intimately that we had the 'password' to every corner," he reminisces. With his father working as a taxi driver and his mother a sociable ‘Kaifong’, Luke has always possessed curiosity about what makes communities tick.
His curiosity led him to explore different ways to effect change at HKUST as a student. He spearheaded two community projects through HKUST Connect and experienced the profound influence of service work during a trip to Cambodia. His engagement in the Nurturing Social Minds program, funded by the Yeh Family Philanthropy and the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund, allowed him to grasp the transformative power of blending business skills with social causes. Helping social enterprises secure funding guided him towards launching his very own initiative.
In 2016 he co-founded Kaifong Tour, an enterprise dedicated to creating social value through business. Despite numerous challenges, inspiration has kept his determination alive. Luke credits the University for equipping him with skills instrumental for entrepreneurialism. "Organizing events at the BASE of HKUST Entrepreneurship Center was a crucial experience that laid the foundation," he reflects.
Weaving Together HKUST Memories
Launching in October, HKUSTours welcomes a diverse array of participants: staff members, retirees, and alumni of varied ages and professions, all stepping up to contribute as tour guides.
Set to transcend the boundaries of the campus, HKUSTours will extend its embrace to encompass neighboring areas, including Shaw Studios and Hang Hau. "We've trained over 40 tour guides to use their personal narratives to connect visitors with the University's spirit, all from within the local community," Luke adds.
The process of creating immersive tours starts with interviewing community members, gathering historical data, interesting trivia, and firsthand narratives. While investigating HKUST's origins, Luke conducted interviews with key stakeholders, including Professor WOO Chia-Wei, the founding president of HKUST. As a facilitator, Luke runs workshops that serve as collaborative platforms where tour guides actively participate in designing tour routes.
With committed volunteers like Mr. Wong and Edwin and a dedicated leader like Luke, HKUSTours is poised to make a lasting impact on the university community and its immediate vicinity. The program is open for all interested visitors to register for tours. Stay tuned to HKUST’s social media platforms for updates on how to register!
(Photos Credit: Luke Tam)