Hong Kong: a city where every voice has a say in its future
Every city has its challenges, and some more than others. But in Hong Kong, there are definitely many that are sometimes under-reported by the government, media, and the larger society, including pressing issues such as racial inequality. Resolve is a new non-profit whose inaugural social justice fellowship kicked off last month on this very issue, bringing together 15 extraordinary fellows from diverse walks of life who will receive group workshops, mentoring and coaching and joint collaboration on the topic of the program. Resolve stands for rights, equality, solidarity, leadership, voice and empowerment and believes in an inclusive Hong Kong. Hear what Founder of Resolve, Victoria Wisniewski Otero, has to say about the social cause and learn of ways that you can help drive their effort to build a next generation of change-makers towards a tolerant and multicultural society!
What is Resolve and how did it begin?
Resolve is one of Hong Kong’s newest social initiatives, empowering emerging community leaders, particularly from marginalised and underrepresented groups in Hong Kong. I founded the company after working in the refugee sector for four years and realising that these communities, like many others, are often misunderstood by mainstream society. People from these affected groups are the best ambassadors to challenge stereotypes, and at Resolve, we invest in supporting them.
I also founded it after becoming alarmed about the increasing polarisation, xenophobia and intolerance in different countries around the world. It is a global trend that I know worries many of us. Rather than succumbing though to feelings of inevitability and futility about it all, I think we can all do something constructive about it.
I feel like now, more than any other point in our lifetime, is when we should be supporting minorities. Resolve is one small drop in the bucket of ordinary people everywhere that are becoming engaged at a community and civic level, but I hope it can have great ripple effects. Six months ago I made my first crowdfunding appeal back when Resolve was just an idea; it’s been humbling to see the program materialise and see the quality of the nominations that we had to our first cohort.
Tell us about the fellowship program and who it was for…
We made the program open to anyone and everyone who cares about an inclusive Hong Kong. When we launched our call for nominations last October in search of our 15 fellows, what we were looking for in candidates was simple, in fact, that they:
1) have a demonstrated commitment to serve
2) show signs of great potential, but could use more support
3) care about racial equality and want to take action
4) come from different walks of life and
5) are essentially good human beings
We received over 60 nominations for 15 places. It was not easy to narrow the final group but we are really excited to share the profiles of the fellows later this month on our webpage. They span 11 different nationalities, all have a unique story in this city and are all engaged in great initiatives. We hope this program can showcase and propel their social justice work. As part of this program, they will be also working together on a project of their choosing about the theme of the fellowship, racial equality and inclusion, so stay tuned for this.
What is one thing you wish people were more aware of when it comes to racial equality in Hong Kong?
At least from what I have seen, many people in Hong Kong simply do not have many opportunities to interact in a meaningful way with people from minority backgrounds. Right now most people base their opinions on what they read in the media, which unfortunately has become increasingly negative and one-dimensional in the past couple of years.
So far in the fellowship, instances of casual racism have come out quite a lot in the discussions – not just about the fellows sharing their experiences with each other, but rather the fellows genuinely wanting to be equipped to handle these everyday experiences in a constructive way that can change perceptions. On a positive note, a recent survey found that 80% of respondents felt Hong Kongers needed to know more about other ethnic groups, so there is an opportunity in that open-mindedness to learning.
In sum, if we want to combat racial discrimination, we have to proactively have a conversation about racial equality and the challenges in achieving it. Those discussions have to include ethnic minorities – who are the people most affected by racial discrimination. Resolve is about developing a pool of spokespeople who can help create that bridge.
What does Resolve aim to accomplish in terms of improving the lives of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong?
Often in this line of work, priority is given to providing services and relief to helping people living in poverty and exclusion to address their immediate livelihood needs. While this is necessary and important work, it is also crucial that there be programs in the larger non-profit ecosystem working on empowering people and communities so that in the long-term, they can break that vicious cycle of powerlessness.
Leadership, public speaking, strategic planning and communications training are very common for people in the corporate sector, so obviously there is consensus that this kind of intervention is invaluable. And so many of us are the product of the mentoring, guidance support and confidence-building we have received along the way in our personal journeys, Resolve is about making those kinds of programmes more available at the community level to people who would not normally have access to them.
How can our readers get involved and support Resolve?
As a new start-up, there are so many areas where people can get involved and give us a helping hand. Right now, we are still seeking corporate venue sponsorship for a couple of the workshops. We are also always looking for skilled volunteers in different areas, from fundraising to finance to project management and communications! Even a couple of hours a week makes a big difference. I also really encourage people to take sabbaticals between jobs to dedicate themselves more fully to volunteerism as well. We recently had a corporate lawyer who did this and his help was invaluable!
If you are looking to donate to a charitable cause, consider initiatives like ours that are local and working on overlooked topics in this city. We were recently humbled when a young newlywed couple donated around $20,000 of their wedding money towards us, as well as by the small donations of many people in the NGO sector who supported our initial crowdfunding campaign. As I mentioned before, one person is a drop in the bucket, but many people coming together creates power.