On a cold winter Saturday in late February, the Moss Park Market was bustling with many new faces. Ten volunteers from the group V Hongkongers joined us to share food (with a Hong Kong twist!) and conversations with the Moss Park community.
We sat down with Elaine and Shun, the group’s founders and co-chairs, and Ricker, one of their volunteers, to learn more about their work.
Can you tell us about yourselves and the V Hongkongers group?
Shun: I moved to Toronto about a year ago as a student in public administration and previously lived in Downtown East. The “V” in the group’s name suggests volunteerism. It is also an homonym of “we” — we want to celebrate the culture of Hong Kong, the place we come from, while participating and giving back to communities here in Canada.
Elaine: I graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a degree in business administration and came to Toronto in 2022. I have been active in volunteering and community groups, and I am interested in labour and poverty alleviation issues. We started the group with the goal of building a sense of belonging among newcomers from Hong Kong while giving back to Canadian society.
Ricker: I arrived in Toronto from Hong Kong in 1988 and this has been a great opportunity for me to reconnect with my roots. I am a pianist and a painter with experience in fundraising for nonprofits such as SickKids, Oxfam, and United Way. Volunteering with V Hongkongers and Building Roots is a great way to meet like-minded people.
What motivated you to volunteer with Building Roots?
Shun: Having enough food is a basic human right, but this has become a major challenge to many due to the pandemic and inflation. Food is a direct way to make people feel happy and fulfilled.
Elaine: I see Building Roots as an important community builder in Toronto’s Downtown East.
Ricker: Things have been changing so rapidly in Moss Park. Many things are gone, and the inflation of housing and food prices makes life difficult for many. We want to contribute in any small ways we can.
How was your experience tabling with us last Saturday?
Shun: I enjoyed connecting with local residents and sharing foods that are important to us and our culture, such as snacks we ate during our childhood in Hong Kong. I am glad to see that many participants delighted in trying something new. The Moss Park Market may operate out of small and humble shipping containers, but the impact is very big.
Elaine: Food is a great way to share and connect with people. We had great interactions with local community members and treasured the opportunity to show that newcomers from Hong Kong are open-minded and would like to learn more about their lives. I am happily surprised by how many volunteers show up on such a cold winter day!
Ricker: I enjoyed the opportunity to connect with new people on a more personal level. I learned that one of the volunteers had just lost her dog, and the same happened to me so we had a meaningful conversation. I also chatted with a volunteer from East Africa and we shared our respective family stories.
Many thanks to V Hongkongers for their participation and support!
You can find out more about the group on their instagram page.