An elevator convo with Ben Yang, co-organizer of Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks HK (SCWalksHK).
Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks HK (SCWalksHK) is a volunteer group dedicated to spreading kindness to Hong Kong’s many street cleaners. The scope of our work involves scouting out locations to understand how many street cleaners are in each district. Then we reach out to those street cleaners through conversation and small gifts of appreciation during our walks.
The group was created by Stacey Wong, Gigi Lam and Priyanka Boghani, who were all colleagues at one point. They took inspiration from ImpactHK’s Kindness Walks. They decided to form Street Cleaner Appreciation Walks to focus on raising awareness on the street cleaner community. Since our founding in 2018, we’ve held more than 10 walks, three of which were relatively large ones involving 25+ volunteers. Plus, we’ve reached out to over 1,300 street cleaners. The outbreak of COVID-19 slowed our efforts in 2020 but with infection rates on a low streak, we’ve cautiously picked up the pace on our walks again. I joined as an organizer after the group’s first walk and I’ve since been helping the team coordinate and plan activities.
We draw volunteers from a variety of sources. They are friends, family and kind souls. You can sign up through social media platforms to take part in a fun, meaningful activity. We welcome everyone from all backgrounds so if you’d like to join one of our walks, follow us on Instagram (@scwalkshk) to get notified on when our next walk will be! Recently, we held our annual walk to distribute mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival and it was a big success! We’ll be doing a walk for the Christmas holidays as well so keep your eyes peeled for updates!
Our walks often start off with a short brief covering things including safety, what each person’s main role is and what to do when we meet street cleaners. The group then departs on the designated route that takes it from station to station. We’ll hand out small tokens of appreciation – items like towels, masks, muscle relief patches, etc. – to street cleaners we meet along the way, and chit-chat with them if they are keen. We started engaging with more ethnic minority street cleaners this year, many of whom are Nepalese and have recruited volunteers who speak Nepali or Hindi. The street cleaners are always thrilled to be able to speak their own language with us so that’s something we’re definitely going to continue doing!
After the walk, we hold a short debrief with our volunteers to understand what their experience was like and what kind of feedback they received from the street cleaners. It’s a good learning experience for everyone and helps us to improve our walks.
Our long-term goals are fairly straightforward. We’d like to organize more walks across to cover more of Hong Kong’s numerous districts and encourage more people to be appreciative of street cleaners. We’d also love it if people held appreciation walks on their own! We’re really all about making small changes, one smile at a time.