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Building a better world through
love, care, and connection

Success is defined as the accomplishment of goals. And at HKUST, we gage the University’s success by our alumni’s success. With such a diverse community, it is always interesting to see the wide range of goals our alumni are working towards. Some in particular have chosen unusual career paths that have led them in unexpected directions. Here, we talk to two such alumni, Mavis Ho and Luke Tam, who have both diverged from mainstream career paths to follow their hearts and serve the community.

Mavis serves at the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society as a social worker for divorced families. Luke is the founder of Kaifong Tour, an award-winning social enterprise that promotes understanding between Hong Kong’s disparate and diverse communities. While they contribute to society in very different ways, the thread that connects them is their determination to make a positive impact.

In fact, the two first became friends through HKUST Connect, when Mavis was working as a full-time coordinator and Luke joined the Public Service Leadership Program as a student. Their unique career paths are a testament to the strong sense of social responsibility that exists within our alumni community.

Luke TAM
A chat with

Luke TAM

2015 BBA Marketing

Co-Founder, Kaifong Tour

A different question

The question at the top of mind for most graduating students is, “How do I get a good job at a big company?” The last year of university is usually spent writing and rewriting resumes, attending interview after interview, and vying for the most reputable job opportunities. But not for Luke Tam. He was concerning himself with an entirely different question:

How can I use my business knowledge to
contribute to the community?

This question led him down a very different path to that of his peers. After graduating with a degree in marketing and information systems in 2015, Luke could have easily built a successful corporate career for himself. However, he had chosen this subject for a different reason. “I saw the power of marketing to connect people,” he explains. “I knew this skill would be crucial for community projects.”

In fact, connection was the driving force behind many of Luke’s life decisions, including the decision to start his own initiative, Kaifong Tour, in 2017. Today, Kaifong Tour is an award-winning social enterprise that organizes local neighborhood tours to facilitate connection and understanding among the diverse communities of Hong Kong. The work is as fulfilling as it is challenging. “As a social entrepreneur, you have to be flexible,” Luke smiles. “The work I do changes every day, depending on what situation arises.” Still, as rewarding as being a social entrepreneur is, not everyone would choose it over a stable corporate job. What inspired Luke to want to change the world in the first place?

Sparking a life-long flame

It all started when Luke’s family received support from the government’s Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme when he was young. “I experienced firsthand what a difference community services make. I always knew I wanted to do something with my life that would help others,” he says.

His first opportunity to help others came at secondary school, when he joined the Sham Shui Po Outstanding Students Association, which brought together about 20 student leaders from different schools. “We did leadership training, held district forums about social issues, and organized activities to help disadvantaged groups,” Luke explains.

And the hugs and smiles
from the students we were
teaching made it all worth it!

Today, he works with secondary school students through Kaifong Tour, helping them realize the impact they can make in society – even as teenagers.

Credit: TVB

Although Luke knew he wanted to help others, he wasn’t sure how. At HKUST, he explored different options to find the right direction to take. He joined HKUST Connect where he initiated and led two projects: Handicraft with Women and the Hong Kong & Macau Joint University Service Camp. While on a week-long trip to Cambodia with the French NGO Aide et Action during his first year at university, he saw how much work there was to be done in the world. “Seven days was not enough,” he says. He wanted to find a more sustainable, long-term way to make a difference.

Finding a way forward

In his third year at HKUST, he found one. As part of the Nurturing Social Minds program, funded by The Yeh Family Philanthropy and the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund, he joined a student consulting team tasked with helping social enterprises get funding. “I saw how combining social initiatives with business acumen could make a bigger impact, and I decided that social enterprise was the way to go.”

Armed with hope, Luke concentrated on building his social entrepreneurship skills. He took several edifying internships with charitable organizations including The Good Lab, a social innovation consultancy, and Teach for Hong Kong, an NGO that increases access to quality education by enlisting university graduates to serve at underprivileged schools.

After graduating, he joined the Golden Age Foundation, which advocates active ageing in Hong Kong. He then worked as a project manager at The Good Lab, helping NGOs and government groups make use of design thinking for public services and finding ways to bring disparate groups together to achieve communal goals.

Building a social enterprise

Through it all, an idea was forming at the back of his mind. “I saw that many problems in society are caused by misunderstandings and disconnection between different groups,” Luke explains. “I wanted to find a way to bring more understanding into the world.” He organized a few projects with friends that won mini social enterprise competitions. Then, he officially founded Kaifong Tour in 2017 and gained funding from the government’s Enhancing Self-Reliance Through District Partnership (ESR) Program and the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund. “The first person to join my team was Jonathan. He is an HKUST alumnus, too!”

The Kaifong Tour team lead groups of primary, secondary, and university students, as well as professionals, around local neighborhoods in Hong Kong, introducing the history and culture of the area with interactive activities, while sharing stories from shopkeepers and residents. “People want to connect with the communities in a personal way,” Luke observes. “Each tour begins with an introduction and ends with a debriefing session to help people consolidate what they experienced. Self-reflection is very important.”

When asked about the challenges of running a social enterprise, Luke doesn’t hesitate: “There are so many!” he exclaims. “At first, we wanted to change the world. But soon, we realized there was a lot of groundwork to do. We had to start by connecting people one by one and build up from there.”

One challenge was building trust with local shopkeepers and residents, who were often suspicious of the team’s exploratory questions when preparing tours. “We adapted quickly: instead of our team leading tours, we trained residents to lead the tours themselves. They knew the area better, were trusted by their neighbors, and had great stories to tell!” This helped the team build a more long-term solution, as local guides could gain a sense of ownership over their own tours and take a more active role in uplifting their own communities.

“We try to find guides with great stories,” says Luke. “Like this Nepalese lady who owns a store in Jordon. She is very nice and participants love listening to her stories about Nepal and Hong Kong. Stories bring people together.” He continues, “Another popular tour is by a resident in the rainbow Choi Hung Estate, who plays table tennis with the participants! We always want people to interact as much as possible, as this facilitates real connection and empathy.”

Still, they face new challenges every day. “Sometimes we only have two or three people show up for the tour. But we will always run the tours, whether for two or 20 people,” he says. Plus, their tours are tailormade for each group and each tour guide. “For example, if the tour guide is elderly, we’d need to ensure there’s a place to sit down and rest,” he says. Their goal is to create more understanding of the abilities, not disabilities, of different groups. Rather than asking for donations, the team create opportunities for interaction, to build an attitude of appreciation and respect in the community. “We believe everyone has something valid to contribute. The elderly, for example, have so many stories we can all learn from,” he explains.

Luke also faced personal challenges, such as getting his family on board. “They were worried about me and encouraged me to get a well-paid job instead,” he says. “They didn’t understand why I was taking this path. So, it was my responsibility to communicate my motives and goals with them to help them understand.” Happily, they are now fully supportive of his work. “My sister freelances with us and my mom has even led tours herself!” Luke laughs.

Building a social enterprise

Kaifong Tour now has 30 trained tour guides and 20 NGO partners, with tours mainly in four districts in Hong Kong: Sham Shui Po, Kowloon City, Yau Tsim Mong, and Sha Tin. Looking fondly at a group photo taken earlier this year, Luke recalls, “This was a very special moment. All our tour guides, volunteers, staff, and community partners came together to celebrate our collective achievements. It touched me to see how many people we’ve brought together already.”

Going forward, Luke would like to expand the tours to more districts and perhaps change Kaifong Tour to an NGO status, so they can support more tour guides. “Alternatively, we could aim to become a Certified B Corporation. Either way, we want to make our services more sustainable and impactful,” he says, with determination.

KaiFong Tour Logo

In addition to running Kaifong Tour, Luke provides social innovation consulting services for the government and various NGOs. He sits on the advisory committee for the Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged under the Member Self-recommendation Scheme for Youth, and contributes to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, providing insights into sustainable community development issues.

And his contributions have not gone unnoticed. Luke has been awarded the Roy To Community Service Award, the Alumni Endowment Fund Community Service Award, the Mrs Choi Ma Oi Kuen Public Service Leadership Award, and the Dean’s Service Award in recognition of his remarkable commitment to community service.

Reflecting on his journey, Luke says, “The advice I’m given by NGO owners is to hope I can quit my job one day,” he smiles. “Because the work exists as long as the problem exists. If we do our jobs well, maybe in a few decades’ time there’ll be no need to organize tours to help disparate groups connect with each other.”

My dream is that one day, everyone in Hong Kong,
no matter how different they are, can live together
with empathy, understanding, and trust.