Read about Ella Every-Wortman’s summer experience at KELY, a nonprofit organization that works to empower the at-risk youth of Hong Kong…
Living, Learning, and Melting in Hong Kong
By: Ella Every-Wortman, BA Human Rights, Columbia College
Thanks to the funding of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, I was able to spend my summer in Hong Kong, working for KELY Support Group. Often known as “Asia’s World City”, Hong Kong is a fascinating mixture of East and West, a city filled with excitement and tension. Living in Hong Kong has given me incredible insight into a very unique city and an interesting perspective on China. Besides wandering the streets and markets of Hong Kong, I particularly enjoyed exploring the city’s outlying islands and incredible natural scenery. I was surprised how thoroughly westernized Hong Kong Island is, but the quieter life on the outlying islands could not have been more different. Among the places I visited, the fishing village of Tai O in particular comes to mind. There, tiny, often dilapidated houses raised above the tide by stilts lined the shore and main canal. Locals make their living by producing baffling amounts of dried fish and selling snacks and knick-knacks at the village market. To me the contrast of the life by the sea to the opulence of the bustling financial district highlights the diversity of Hong Kong and the city’s struggle to negotiate its place in a globalized world as both a former British Colony and as a part of China.
My experience at KELY Support Group was really fantastic and definitely contributed greatly to my academic and professional growth. KELY is a nonprofit organization that works to empower the at-risk youth of Hong Kong through peer support, mentorship, and leadership development. They are the only fully bilingual youth-oriented organization in Hong Kong targeting Chinese-speaking youth, non-Chinese speaking youth, and Ethnic Minority youth through creative means of engagement. I spent my time at KELY doing research youth poverty and youth unemployment. The report I completed at the end of my 7-week internship was a comprehensive overview of both issues and included policy recommendations as well as potential programming focused on psychological support for impoverished youth that KELY could implement. From my research, I was not only able to gain an understanding of the unique way in which poverty and inequality have developed in Hong Kong, which greatly colored my experience there, but also had the opportunity to learn about relevant Human Rights related issues, my primary field of study.
I am very thankful for WEAI for making this opportunity possible. My experience in Hong Kong has served to solidify my interest in East Asia, Human Rights, and development studies. Furthermore Through it allowed me to hone my research skills while exploring a career in social work and policy. Lastly, it was great to finally experience first-hand life in a region that I have been studying for so long. I enjoyed getting to know the Hong Kong culture and learning how it differs from that of the mainland.