With her parents both were dim sum chef, co-founder Carmen Lee built up a special feeling and bound with yum cha ever since she was a little girl. Being the only daughter of her four other siblings, Carmen understands the hardship her mother had faced to raise them. Working as a lawyer nowadays, Carmen decided to write a memoir of her mother during her spare time. But as she wrote, she couldn’t help but to write the whole industry: the story of Hong Kong Chinese restaurant.
“When Hong Kong people see each other, they always like to say, ‘Let’s go yum cha together’,” said Carmen, “Foreigners also enjoy dim sum. Writing Chinese restaurant is writing Hong Kong.”
After interviewing many practitioners in the Chinese restaurant industry, as well as their stories of struggle, Carmen completed her book Yum Cha Together (published by Joint Publishing), a book which composes a striving, persistence, supportive and loving spirit, which won the Best Book Award under Hong Kong Golden Book Award in 2014.
During her production, Carmen shared her experience with her husband, Alan To. They believe the Spirit of Lion Rock, a phrase which Hong Kong locals use to describe a person with striving, persistence, supportive and loving spirit, is the genie flowing inside every Hong Kong people. It is a spirit that should be spread down. While Carmen decided to use the funds she earned from her book for charity purposes, Alan conceived how to put the spirit to practice.
Since 2008, Carmen and Alan serve as the social angel at HKCSS-HSBC Social Enterprise Business Centre. Using their experience and knowledge in the legal and commercial field, they provide help for different charities and social enterprise. Through their effort, they discovered that 70% of the Hong Kong charities are small-middle sizes, some of them are even small sizes. They work tirelessly for the community, hoping to make a different. However, with their lack of visibility, they often unable to receive community supports, which preventing them to serve the community and different disadvantage minorities. This is when Carman and Alan thinking of combining yum cha with charity events, and soon they established Yum Cha Together.
We, Yum Cha Together, determine to pull out the spirit from our book and put it to practice within Hong Kong communities. We hold the ideal of yum cha, care and inheritance, as well as combining yum cha and the caring spirit within Hong Kong people. Through visiting, exchanging and using yum cha as a platform, we introduce the participants to the local small-middle size charities and social enterprise, understanding the social works and related issues from the benefited institutions. Yum Cha Together’s events feature with gaming elements, which have included culinary culture. Using Give and Take, we let beneficiaries take the main role of the events, allowing them to show and present their unique qualities, helping them to build up their confidence and social identity. Our events encourage participants to use their specialities to help different institution, such as volunteering or donating etc., in order to expand the community supports for the benefited institution, allowing them to continue their service to the communities. At the same time, participants could relax through their unique good deeds, and embracing social inclusion.