Enjoying family life in Hong Kong's first community living room

11 Feb 2024 11:00am
A college student volunteer helps children with homework in the first community living room in Hong Kong, south China. Photo by Long Jingyi/XINHUA
A college student volunteer helps children with homework in the first community living room in Hong Kong, south China. Photo by Long Jingyi/XINHUA

HONG KONG - In the evening, Liang Wan Ning, who was waiting for her husband to get off work, brought the dinner to the table. The delicious smell of food filled the living room where Liang's son was playing with his friends.

This is not Liang's home, but Hong Kong's first community living room. "It's the taste of home that makes people feel warm," Liang said.

Sham Shui Po is one of the areas in Hong Kong with the highest number of subdivided flats. Cramped and usually with poor hygiene conditions and ventilation, these tiny abodes are home to many grassroots people in the international financial hub.

In the latest Policy Address, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government proposed the Community Living Room project, bringing together the strengths of the government, the business sector and the community to improve the living environment of subdivided flats occupants.

The three-year project was launched on Dec. 18, 2023, when the first community living room opened. Since then, it has received an average of more than 150 users per day. Liang and her son, who live in a subdivided flat of about 15 square meters, have become regular users.

Lok Sin Tong Benevolent Society, Kowloon, a local charitable organization, is the operator of this community living room in Sham Shui Po.

"The opening hours here are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The users must meet the required monthly income limits and at least one member of the family is a Hong Kong resident," Alice Lau Oi Sze, chief executive of the Lok Sin Tong Benevolent Society, Kowloon, said.

Located in Fuk Wa Street of Sham Shui Po, the community living room offers a space of nearly 800 square meters, coupled with modern and simple decorations, light and gentle in color, creating a relaxed atmosphere.

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Apart from a shared living room where children can do their homework and have group activities, there are also additional facilities including a self-service laundry, shower cubicles, a children's corner and reading room.

"The Community Living Room is like my second home," Liang said, adding that the spacious environment here has made her and her family feel more relaxed.

A few years ago, Liang quit her job at an apparel shop to take care of her son. With less income, the family cannot afford the extra tuition fee for her son's remedial class, making Liang, who has a low education level, feel helpless.

In the community living room, there were college student volunteers to help children in their schoolwork, relieving Liang's anxiety.

"By making friends with people of different ages, my son's social and interpersonal skills have been improved and he became more cheerful," Liang said, expressing her thanks to the volunteers.

Apart from that, the community living room has allowed Liang to enjoy life. The well-equipped kitchen gave her a chance to showcase her cooking skills and communicate with other moms and staff members of the premises.

Liang said that she used to feel overwhelmed due to pressures from parenting and livelihood. Talking to other people has helped her to reduce stress.

"Some mothers living in subdivided flats might felt guilty for not being able to provide a good living environment for their children, which is bad for their mental health and can lead to deeper social problems in the long run," Lau said.

In the community living room, there are older students reading and playing with young children. Lau said these people did not know each other and when they came to this common space, they began to help each other, which is a spirit that Hong Kong people should be proud of. - XINHUA