As one of the fastest-changing and ever-busy cities, Hong Kong enjoys its reputation for its efficiency. Yet this extraordinary speed of growth and development doesn’t come without a price. While the city benefits from the fruit of its economic success, many traditional handicrafts, be they neon signs, hand-written minibus plates or hand-carved mahjong tiles, are on the verge of extinction as they are either being replaced by new technology or no longer needed.
Joyce, who works at a digital marketing consultancy, noticed that Hong Kong people, like herself, tend to lament over the loss of yet another traditional handicraft shop only when they see it on the news. Having pondered what else she can do, she started a social enterprise named “Eldage”, and with her employer’s support, she made use of social media to tell the stories of those handicraft masters to raise the awareness of the public and sell their products online. Meanwhile, she let these artisans share their skills and stories through workshops which in turn attract hundreds of participants, many of which from the younger generations. The platform also draws the attention of aspired young people who offer to be volunteers in reporting, filming and even bladesmithing!
Although it may seem impossible to have these handicrafts passed on as it used to to the next generation, by letting more people know about what they are and the beauty behind these craftsmanship, Joyce believes they can be revitalized in some other form one day.
The “Maker” culture has taken root in Hong Kong in recent years. These makers, equally enthusiastic about technologies and their application, often have various interests and strong suits. Among them are several who demonstrate particular concern for people with hand disabilities. Utilising their knowledge and skills in leisure time, these makers endeavour to produce 3D-printed prosthetics that meet the needs of these disabled people, hoping to help them cope in everyday life. As every user faces different problems, makers have to think from the users’ perspectives and understand their needs before making prosthetics.
Although 3D-printed prosthetics are not exactly health products, they do offer an alternative for the hand disabled and benefit those in need. These makers also connect with non-governmental organisations in West Africa. After a “Hand Assembling” event in Hong Kong that engages the public in producing prosthetics, the products are then transported to West Africa as gifts for the needy.
In the meantime, Mike, the originator of this campaign, takes the initiative to collaborate with schools while promoting the idea of 3D-printed prosthetics. Through complementing the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum of secondary schools, the campaign enables students to make prosthetics, thereby sowing the seeds of research, with the hope of seeing more inventions that bring convenience to the physically challenged. As such, “social inclusion” will be more than a slogan, but a goal that everyone contributes to.