Taking care of Ming Wah is like taking care of a family
Kwok Chi Hung / Technician at Ming Wah
There’s a step on the ground floor of Block B which prohibits wheelchair users from entering and exiting the building. Using existing resources, Kwok sawed wooden planks off of furniture from the recycling station. He crafted a ramp and put it into use after meticulously testing its stability and sturdiness.
In 1991, Kwok Chi Hung, aged 24, deemed working at Ming Wah only as a temporary career move. Since then, 31 years have passed, and now he considers Ming Wah as more than just a workplace, but also his home.
“I started on 12 August 1991.” Kwok remembers the exact date he started as a turning point in his life. Before joining Ming Wah’s team of technicians, Kwok ran an interior design company with his partner. Their clients include opulent jewelers, restaurants and luxury apartments. When his partner left Hong Kong during the Mass Migration Wave, Kwok, who had been focusing on the more hands-on side of the business and was not adept at dealing with customers, felt dispirited and decided to close the company. While he was uncertain about his future, Kwok came across a recruitment ad placed by the Housing Society. He was hired on his first try and assigned to Ming Wah Dai Ha as a technician.
Revered as a jack-of-all-trades amongst residents
Moving from luxury to the more austere simplicity of public estate repairs meant that Kwok had a lot to learn. “Other than water and electricity, we do almost everything else you can think of.” While this sounds like a massive challenge, Kwok’s face lights up with excitement every time he talks about work. The green and white Jersey barrier along A Kung Ngam Road and monument at Block G needs to be recoloured from time to time to keep them looking bright and elegant. When tiles on the skywalk begin to crack, Kwok has to mend them to prevent residents from tripping over them. Even breaking down door locks is part of the technician’s job. “About 20 years ago, a one-year-old kid locked himself in the flat. His mom was throwing out the trash and left the stove on. I rushed to break open the door as soon as I got word on the beeper. Such emergencies were common. I even put out a fire with other residents.” When a fire broke out 20 years ago, the firemen were called but it took time to connect the hose to the hydrant at A Kung Ngam Road. Anxious residents and staff decided to take matters into their own hands. Kwok turned off the gas supply and joined the others in putting out the fire with water. Some residents revered him as a jack-of-all-trades, as he seems to be able to deal with any problems thrown at him. “We have to think on the spot and be flexible in our work,” Kwok said.
Putting oneself in other’s shoes: crafting tools to help
Being a service provider as well as a user, Kwok contemplates improvements he can make from a user’s standpoint. Ideas come to him every day when he’s pushing his tool cart around as he observes his surroundings with a sharp eye. “People may graze their arms when they walk past laundry drying poles, maybe we can wrap the sharp end with some sponge?” “It’s hard for parking attendants’ knees when they have to kneel and draw lines on the ground. Maybe we can give them a paint roller so they can draw without kneeling?” Kwok’s most recent piece is a ramp designed for wheelchair users. As the pandemic persisted, a community testing centre was set up on the ground level. Kwok found that there is a step on the way to the centre, and thought it might be difficult for wheelchair users to get there.
“We’d better do something about this,” Kwok thought to himself, and a solution came to him almost immediately - he could make a ramp. After consulting his supervisor, Kwok made measurements and drew up a blueprint. Then, he looked for wooden planks in the company storehouse and furniture recycling station. After much drilling, amending and anti-slip tape adhering, he tested the ramp’s stability and sturdiness. It was 9 at night when he finished, though he was officially off work since 5:30pm. Kwok smiled, “You gotta have heart.” The pandemic has been hard for everyone and he wishes to support the residents as best as he could.
“Ming Wah is my home, the residents are my neighbours.”
Kwok cares about the estate’s affairs like they are his own. One time when the anti-epidemic packages issued by the government had arrived, he came back to help distribute them despite being on holiday. A resident saw him and told him about the water leakage at home. Kwok’s wife asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be on holiday?” Kwok has long incorporated his work into his life. He’d plan about what to do at work on his off days as he believes that it’d be too late to plan in the morning; repairs should be always timely.
Kwok has been working in Ming Wah for more than 30 years. He considers the estate his home, its residents his neighbours. This is not what he expected when he walked away from his glamorous furnishing job and into a modest public estate where he had planned to stay for a few years at most. However, when the time comes to look for a new job, he found none of the opportunities attractive. In the end, he’d rather stay where things are pragmatic and real, where his creativity could blossom, and where residents would say hello and treat him to a bite after a job well done. He never would accept anyone’s gift as he was on duty, but the residents’ intention alone was encouraging enough. To Kwok, this is not a job, but a bigger family with issues he’s helping every day.
Name: Kwok Chi Hung
Connection to Ming Wah Dai Ha: Cement Sand Mortar Master at Ming Wah Dai Ha since 1991