10 Minutes With…Ben Yang, Co-Founder of Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks
An interview with Ben Yang, Co-Founder of Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks
Name: Ben Yang | Occupation: Co-Founder of Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks | Location: Hong Kong
Hong Kong is home to an abundance of creative talent, spanning across different career paths from artists to chefs. Each week we interview creatives and entrepreneurs from across the city to learn more about their passions and aspirations. This week, we got up and personal with Ben Yang, Co-Founder of a non-profit organisation, Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks.
Image courtesy of Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks
1. Can you tell us about ‘Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks’?
Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks is a small volunteer group that envisions Hong Kong in a light where all street cleaners can be proud of the work they do and their contribution to society. Through our walks, we aim to reach out through kindness to show our appreciation to a group of Hong Kongers that are often overlooked and sometimes looked down upon by society.
2. What inspired you to start this project?
The group started when three of us (former colleagues) wanted to give a little back to society. We joined ImpactHK on one of their walks to help the homeless and got inspired then to help out street cleaners. We went on to plan and host our own walk in 2018 and it turned out to be a great success! The volunteers and street cleaners found the activity to be very meaningful and we learned a lot about street cleaners’ challenges throughout the whole process. So we decided to do it on a continuous basis. Since then, we’ve held walks both big and small to distribute small gifts of appreciation and chat with the street cleaners.
Image courtesy of Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks / @saeades
3. You conduct interviews with street cleaners across Hong Kong—can you tell us about the importance of raising awareness to Hong Kong people?
We think it’s crucial that people understand who it is that keeps our city clean—and sanitation is certainly something that can’t be taken for granted nowadays! It’s easy to forget about our trash as soon as we throw it away. But we have to remember that it doesn’t disappear, it just becomes the responsibility of someone else. Through our interviews, we want to raise awareness that there are voices behind our city’s hygiene and, hopefully, spread the message that a little empathy can go a long way.
4. How can Hong Kongers show their support to the street cleaners of Hong Kong?
There are a lot of things Hong Kongers can do! A lot of street cleaners also express to us that they sometimes get discriminated against, so treating them like they are a part of our community is a great way to show support. Other things like not throwing trash on the streets and responsibly disposing of domestic waste are also things that street cleaners would like to see. Small gestures of kindness, such as saying thanks to street cleaners when passing by them, also don’t go unnoticed.
Image courtesy of Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks
5. How can participants join the street walks?
We post all our activities on our Instagram (@scwalkshk) and Facebook, where appreciation, kindness and empowerment are our pillars. We are here to show appreciation and respect to those unsung heroes who keep our city clean. If you follow us on either Instagram or Facebook, you can sign up for any upcoming walk! Everyone is welcome and the walks are a great way for volunteers to connect with street cleaners. Unfortunately, we’ve had to postpone some of our recent activities due to the pandemic, but as soon as things get better we intend to continue hosting again.
6. Can you tell us about the post-event reports conducted by Street Cleaner Walks?
It’s our responsibility to show our volunteers and donors how their time and money were put to use. So in our post-event reports, we provide breakdowns on how the funds were used and what gifts were distributed to where. It’s really about showing accountability and building trust with our growing network of volunteers and donors.
Image courtesy of Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks / @s_h_c
7. How do you work with other local charities and NGOs in Hong Kong?
We currently don’t have any official ties to other charities and NGOs but are open to any opportunities. In terms of other ways we interact with them though, we donate all of our excess funds to other charities suggested by volunteers.
8. What is the process of joining the walks?
We hold walks from time to time so if you’re interested in joining the next one, simply send us a message on Instagram and we can get you registered after a small briefing. There are other ways to volunteer as well. For example, we often need help packing/repacking the gifts that we order. We also sometimes need volunteers with different language skill sets so that we are able to communicate effectively with the street cleaners who don’t speak Chinese. We regularly update our social media pages with news so make sure to follow us to see when the next walk will take place.