Non-profit ImpactHK was founded in 2017 by long-time resident of Hong Kong, Jeff Rotmeyer. But our journey really started in 2014 with Jeff’s simple aim of doing one act of kindness a month – handing out food
to people experiencing homelessness. His regular visits to people living in a Kowloon park were popular with volunteers and quickly evolved into a powerful humanitarian movement.
A chance to show care for people living on the streets, while educating the rest of the community about homelessness, these ‘Kindness Walks’ still form the bedrock of our work. Seeing first-hand how many people were trapped in a cycle of homelssness and not content with just providing supplies, he built an organisation that has a holistic approach and has supported hundreds of people experiencing homelessness on the journey to independent living.
HK01 x ImpactHK
Homeless Tales series
Real Life Stories
“My biggest joy in life comes from helping others.”
Si Fu Ah Cheong
Ah Cheong first became homeless many years ago when he had a fight with his family and was struggling with his finances. He ended up having no place to go and sleeping on street corners in North Point.
However, he is such a determined and caring man that even during the days of wandering, he did not give up on helping others. He would help his elderly neighbours to fix the electronic appliances or just change the lightbulbs and do a bit of cleaning. He told us with his usual awkward but cute smile, “Every small act can help. This is how I was taught by Dad when I was a kid.” Now he is part of the ImpactHK team and we are proud to call him our very own si fu (which in Cantonese means the role of a skillful person or a master).
When we asked Ah Cheong about his job duties, he pulled out a list and spoke in his steady, confident voice, “renovation, cleaning, fixing plumbing, electricity, air con, furniture…” and we literally had to stop him. That’s how he is, a man of many talents – keeping our centres in good shape and always ready to come and help out. “Now I have a proper job and through my work, I can help our charity. And what that actually means, is that I can help others.”
“The smiley faces and satisfaction of our customers makes me happy.”
Our colleague Ivy inspires us by reminding us that it’s never too late to dream or learn something new. In the past, Ivy was forced to make a living from scavenging but now she works on the ImpactHK team making tasty coffee in our very own ImpactHK café. This afternoon, she put work at My Kinda Café aside and told us more about her story.
Some years ago, Ivy had a fight with her family and started wandering around Tai Kok Tsui with no idea how long this chapter would last. “Every morning when I opened my eyes, there was no place to go. With no responsibilities or commitments, I actually felt free” She used to collect cardboard piece by piece and sold them for a few cents each. Her life reached a turning point when she met our founder Jeff on one of our Kindness Walks. She soon started on our community helper programme, where she gradually gained confidence and discovered her interests. From grinding, roasting to making latte art, she poured her heart and soul into learning. She explained to us how a good coffee should be made. “It’s not easy – I’m still learning and I still have far to go.”
“Try this on, we have more options here. You will look great in this outfit!”
Shop master Will
This tall, gentle man is the shop assistant of our buzzing sample store 1ofaKind, in Jordan. He oversees all retail and customer service duties in the shop and is loved by all our neighbours. And something of a local celebrity it seems – an old man passing by even grabbed him for a photo during our interview!
Seeing the natural interaction between Will and our customers, we can hardly believe that he was once exceptionally reserved and quiet. Years ago, Will lost his job and started his journey on the streets. Being half Malaysian and half British, he found it more difficult to interact with others and withdrew, becoming more isolated. As one of the earliest friends of ImpactHK, he has been through our programmes step by step and now works for us as a shop assistant. “I now have friends and responsibility”, he shared with a beaming smile.
When asked about his plans for the future, he grinned and said, “I am not gonna stay here forever, right? Maybe going back to the UK, maybe New Zealand, maybe staying in HK, I don’t know where to go yet, but anyway it’s moving forward”
“I used to be alone but now I have friends, and even a daughter!”
Proud dog owner Ah Lik
“I used to be alone but now I have friends, and even a daughter!” When Ah Lik talks about his daughter, he is referring to his rescue puppy Fafa. “I remember the day that ImpactHK organised for me to meet her in Cheung Chau. She ran to me and I was so happy.” He soon adopted her and now he is a devoted and proud dog owner – we just have to mention Fafa and Ah Lik’s face lights up.
But he has not always been this joyful. For more than 7 years, Ah Lik lived in a tunnel in Happy Valley and says that with no one to talk to, he was lonely and depressed. His teenage period was hard, “I was just taking one day at a time.” Then his life changed when he met our team on a Kindness Walk, where we serve food to people sleeping on the streets. He shares that it was a group with kids who handed him some snacks and it made him feel so warm and cared for that a family wanted to visit him. “I was touched by their visits and it made me want to make changes to my life. So I travelled all the way from Happy Valley to Tai Kok Tsui to 29”.
He was our first ever ImpactHK employee with experience of homelessness and now he works in our community centre 29. He prepares the materials for Kindness Walks, showing care to people who are still living in the Happy Valley tunnel where he used to sleep – and other locations across Hong Kong. He proudly showed us the big boxes of bananas and eggs he bought and said “It’s all about helping others, just like how I was helped to go through all those painful days in the past.”
「Bring a little change to someone’s life every day.」
Case worker Alison
Recovering from trauma is never easy – our friends have to go through a long and hard journey after entering our services. And they can’t do this without our super caring case workers! One of our caseworkers, Alison sat down with us and told us more about her story.
At ImpactHK we have a vision for an inclusive Hong Kong where everyone has a safe place to call home and cares for their neighbour....Who We Are
Between 2019-2020 there was a 22% increase in the number of registered street sleepers - up to 1,423. But agreement between non-profits serving this community...Homelessness in Hong Kong
At ImpactHK we are proud of our diverse and inclusive approach to growing the team; around half of our staff team have lived experience of...Our Team
29 is our community centre in Tai Kok Tsui that is open to the homeless every day of the year and serves more than 3,000...Our Centres
We are grateful for every gift donated to ImpactHK and are careful to spend the funds where they are most needed. Below you can see...Our Finances