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Reaching Out

Retirees Appointed as Urban Renewal Docents Continue to Contribute to Society while Enhancing Cross-generational Integration

staffMiu is grateful for the opportunity to become a docent, which she considers her ‘second career’.

Many elderly and middle-aged people nowadays, despite having retired, still hope to rejoin the workforce and continue to contribute to the society. In order to support their employment, as well as to promote cross-generational integration, the URA has for the first time recruited retirees as part-time docents to promote the URA’s mission and its work of urban regeneration to the public. Since mid-2019, retirees Emanuel Poon and Miu Ng have been stationing in the Urban Renewal Exploration Centre (‘UREC’) on the ground floor of The Center, conducting guided tours. Besides being able to continue serving with their skills, they both find the work unexpectedly rewarding.

Emanuel started his career in tourism in the 1980s, when he first worked as a tour guide receiving international inbound guests mainly from Europe and the US. Over the time, he has developed some insights about his role, “British visitors can be quite uptight, hence, a sense of humour may help loosen them up. Americans are the most inquisitive, and they’d appreciate your effort for answering their questions. Israelis are obsessed with numbers, so it’s important to have your figures about Hong Kong ready before the tour begins.” To simply put, one has to understand the guests to cater to their needs. Having gone through the heyday of tourism in Hong Kong, Emanuel left the frontline and worked backstage afterwards to help develop various sightseeing tours and products for the Hong Kong Tourism Board before he retired.

Describing himself a people person, Emanuel lost his sense of purpose when he retired and spent much time at home, without any opportunity to utilize his skills. Thus, he was excited to know that URA was recruiting retirees as docent and applied immediately. “I still have a lot to contribute. I am grateful for the opportunity the URA has given to the middle-aged and elderly like us to make good use of our skills.”

After joining the URA, Emanuel is able to convert his expertise acquired from conducting tours for travellers in Hong Kong into great docent experience on urban renewal for students and the public. He is particularly glad to display his storytelling skills in his new role. For instance, when he introduces various heritage preservation or revitalization projects, he will supplement with interesting historical stories to spice up the tours. “When I introduce Pak Tsz Lane Park, I will tell stories about the 1911 Revolution, such as the assassination of Yeung Ku-wan, President of Furen Literary Society on Gage Street; when I present the preservation and revitalization project of Prince Edward Road West, I will talk about pre-war Chinese buildings and their architectural characteristics...…” While those joining the guided tours include students and general public, Emanuel will customise the content for different audience to make it easier for everybody to understand.

staff 2Emanuel (middle) and university students participating in the URA internship programme exchange views on docent skills.

staff 2Emanuel worked as a tour guide in the 80s receiving international inbound guests mainly from Europe and the US. He later worked backstage to help develop tour products for Hong Kong Tourism Board.

With an intent to contribute at the beginning, Emanuel eventually realised his new gains from the job – an opportunity to work with the university students who participated in URA internship programme. They shared views on how to conduct guided tours, in particular, skills for communicating with students. “The students told me about youngsters’ liking these days, and I shared with them some slangs we used in the old days which were transliteration of some English words. This kind of exchange was very interesting.” Different generations do not necessarily clash but can get together harmoniously and learn from each other.

Miu, another docent, agreed with Emanuel that it was a pleasure to work with the young students. “The interns gave us feedback from the perspective of young people. For instance, we can stimulate youngsters’ curiosity by asking them questions. We both benefited from the exchange.” Miu was an assistant for a private company’s director before her retirement.  Her job mainly involved mundane paperwork. She is grateful for the opportunity to become a docent, which she considers her “second career”. “I used to work to make a living; now I work to enjoy life, meeting people from all walks of life, and realising my true value.”

Changing to a new workplace inevitably brings in new challenges in the beginning. Both Emanuel and Miu admitted that it was not easy to acquire massive information and knowledge about urban renewal within a short time. “What are the 5R urban renewal strategies? What procedures must be taken to redevelop an old area? We have to make painstaking effort to memorise all these specialized knowledge and information.” In order to assist the two new members to fit into the new workplace, the URA has provided them with on-the -job training to equip them with a good grip on information about urban renewal.

Both Emanuel and Miu find their job as docents very meaningful, as they can share the mission of URA’s work with the general public, thus building a connection with the community. Emanuel is already thinking big outside the UREC – upon completion of the Central Market Revitalisation Project, he looks forward to enriching the docent experience filled with local history with an additional coverage of the Central Market which connects the adjacent community space “H6 CONET”, as well as other revitalization projects around Peel Street/Graham Street.

Those interested to join the guided tours are welcome to make an appointment on the UREC website: hk/urec/about/. General public are welcome to book a tour at selected timeslots on Friday, while group tours are held at specified timeslots on Monday to Friday.

URECThe Urban Renewal Exploration Centre

Since 2009, the Urban Renewal Exploration Centre (‘UREC’) has been providing students, community organisations and the general public with information about the urban renewal in Hong Kong, including the problem of urban decay and the mission and work of the Urban Renewal Authority (‘URA’). The UREC, located in H6 CONET, a community space on the ground floor of The Center, presents a real-life experience of dilapidated housing, interesting exhibits, interactive multimedia facilities and sharing corner. It aims to inspire visitors to understand and approach urban renewal issues from various perspectives.

All tours are by appointment only.

Guided tour:
Mon – Fri (except public holidays) 10:00 am to 12:00 pm & 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Audio guided tour:
Mon – Fri (except public holidays)12:30pm to 2:00pm