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28 Sep 2009

Hong Kong at risk of losing its only gay community centre

Rainbow of Hong Kong, the only LGBT-community centre in the territory, faces an uncertain future due to lack of funding and is appealing to the community for donations to keep it going.

Rainbow of Hong Kong (香港彩虹), a LGBT-community centre located at the busy junction of Nathan and Jordan Roads in Kowloon, is finding itself in a precarious situation and is at risk of having to shut down if its hope to raise additional funds doesn’t materialise.

The drop-in centre located at Flat D, 7/F, National Court, 242 Nathan Road. Tel: (852) 2769 1069. Bottom pic: Co-founder Kenneth Cheung is one of Hong Kong's most prominent gay and HIV activists, and the only openly gay candidate to stand for public office (twice). Read more in From personal trauma to activism: Kenneth Cheung Kam-hung.
In a statement appealing for funds, co-founder of the centre Kenneth Cheung Kam-hung, who’s known to many by his nickname Ken-jai (Ken仔), said the organisation had been unsuccessful in its applications for grants from various agencies and had not received any funding from government sources since May 2009.

Since then, the centre has stayed open with donations from supporters but may not be sufficient in the long-term. The rent is about HK$11,000 (US$1,420) a month and the centre does not have any staffing costs as its committee members, Wai Wai, Timothy, Tommy and Ken volunteer their time to run the centre.

“We perceive the approach of a difficult and cold winter through which we are striving to keep this LGBTQ Community Centre open, not allowing it to close again.” Ken said.

The group launched its first centre in Mongkok in 2000 with grants from the Equal Opportunities Commission and AIDS Trust Fund (ATF) but was shut down after a year due to lack of funding.

In 2007, the centre was given a second lease of life with funds from the AFT to cover one year’s HIV prevention work with MSM, though not for HIV testing or counselling, Ken told Fridae in an interview published in June.

In addition to being a drop-in centre that attracts about 200 visitors every week, the space is used by LGBT groups including the Women's Coalition of HKSAR, Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, Unitarian Universalists Hong Kong and CD (Cross Dressing) Family, and the organising committees of International Day Against Homophobia HK Parade and Hong Kong Pride. (The second pride parade will be held Nov 1, 2009.)

The centre also provides AIDS education programs and HIV blood testing service on Saturdays.

If you would like to make a donation, you can do so via one of the following channels:
- Mail a local cheque (issued by a Hong Kong bank) to Rainbow of Hong Kong, Mongkok P.O. Box 78882, Kowloon, Hong Kong
- Cash deposit / transfer to their bank account [Hang Seng Bank, Account no: 356-142059-001, Account name: Rainbow of Hong Kong]
- Make a transfer via PayPal [Cheung Kam Hung (info@rainbowhk.org) "Rainbow of Hong Kong"] 
Rainbow of Hong Kong requests that donors mail the receipt to the centre with your name and contact information. 

Ken and Tommy were recently interviewed by JOY 94.9, Australia's only gay and lesbian radio station about the Rainbow Centre and Ken's HIV+ status. 
Title: Orange Ribbon - 23rd September, 2009
Author: JOY 94.9 
Subtitle: Two radical gay activists in Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Rainbow Centre 
Summary: Ken jai and Tommy jai are two somewhat radical, yet committed and caring gay activists in Hong Kong, and the co-founders of Rainbow Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Rainbow Centre. Ken is well-known for his radical activities in conservative Hong Kong, arising as a result of discovering he was HIV+ in 1995 while he was still in secondary school. Tommy is also not publicity-shy and has taken some radical actions that many of us in the West would not even be prepared to do. He became famous for his ‘Rainbow Actions’ in the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and for chaining himself to the Hong Kong Central Police Station. Here are two radical gay activists, yet who are also very genuine, committed, and deeply caring young Chinese men who just want to make for a better place for gays & lesbians in Hong Kong. 
Duration: 39:46 


1. 2009-09-29 01:58  
Perhaps Ken should rethink his business model. For the center to survive it must be sustainable, relevant & marketable. Where does the fund come from? As other businesses, without a smooth flow of revenue, it can't survive. How can it fit into the LGBT community's lifestyle so that it becomes a part of their lifestyle rather than just a clinic-like center? How does donating to it benefit commercial donors? I admire Ken's enthusiasm and passion. But he really needs better marketing planning. If he continues to rely on occasional fund raising campaigns from which he hopes he get the big fish, he can't ensure that the center can survive in the long run. Even NKF & Renci in Singapore need higher predictability of revenue by having thousands of regular donors. So, Ken needs more numerous small donors who contribute regular, such as monthly, via Interbank GIRO. Second, he needs commercial donors, especially pink businesses such as discos, saunas, pubs, hair salons & media companies (e.g. Fridae). He could work with them to sell vouchers that may be redeemed for the latter's products & services on behalf of them, for a commission. He should also organize regular fund raising activities at their premises. For example, his center may co-host annually a Man Hunt at one of the gay discos. Profit from the cover charges could be split. Regular donors (e.g. via GIRO) may be rewarded with some vouchers. For example, a monthly donation of HK$100 may entitle the donor to a free entry + a complimentary house pour at one of the gay discos (usually priced at around HK$100 too) during the same month. He may enter into some agreement with the disco owner that the center would pay him HK$70-80 for every redeemed voucher. HK$20-30 would become the profit. On top of that, a gift of, say, 3 months' VIP membership of Fridae may be given as reward for each full year's donation. Donors may also be entitled to buy vouchers for drinks packages for a discount. Other businesses that are good candidates include hair salons, travel agencies, health food stores, fashion boutiques, cafes, pubs and saunas which gays frequently do business with. Next, it should also focus on LIFESTYLE rather than HIV PREVENTION. Most gays who haven't been affected personally get bored when you try to preach about HIV-prevention, just like smokers being told about how harmful smoking can be. People only start to worry when their health deteriorates. Perhaps only when they themselves or a family member had been diagnosed with lung cancer would smokers start to worry. So, its strategic posture has to change from that of HIV PREVENTION CENTER to GAY LIFESTYLE CLUB, with the aim of promoting a hot, exciting yet healthy lifestyle. This makes it more appealing to most gays. Gays want to know how to look better, where to club, etc. So, if you want them to swallow a 'bitter' pill, you'd better coat it with 'sugar' like these. There are many things that can be done at the center beside promoting HIV prevention. Talks about grooming, body sculpting, make up. Sales talks for travel packages, hairdressing courses, gyms, etc may also be conducted. Many gays are keen about these information. Some may even be willing to pay to obtain the information. Certificates of Competence may be awarded for participants who have achieved, say, 75-100% attendance for a series of grooming talks to enhance the attractiveness of these talks. These educational seminars also enhance the life of the participants by helping them enhance their employability in certain cases. Other skill areas that may be considered are: public speaking, conversational English/Mandarin/Japanese, negotiation, retail selling, customer service, wine mixing, social dance, relaxation techniques, job interviewing, CV preparation, studying skills, time management skills, journalism, proofreading, telephone skills, bookkeeping and Charsiew making.
2. 2009-09-29 13:45  
Sun...wow, thats a well thought out plan! Wish you could work with the center, you sound quite enthused. Asia needs more guys like Ken and company, and supporters such as yourself.
3. 2009-09-30 01:57  
I am flattered. While I could offer some tips offhand I haven't the opportunity or time to go further. I guess Fridae's being helpful by reporting on Ken's difficult situation. Apparently, Ken is in need of some help. While I don't discourage those who want to offer some donation to do so, I don't think it helps much. A more sustainable solution is what Ken needs. I guess every individual in our community would feel it's a pity if such a passionate soul is forced to forgo his noble mission. A more practical solution would be for members of the HK's LGBT community to offer their help to Ken asap. As I mentioned, the problem lies on poor planning, so even our timely donation can only buy Ken time; it can't solve the root problem. Ken really needs an MBA to sit down with him over a weekend to discuss about what he has to offer, and explain in layman terms what it'd take from a business perspective to achieve his goals. Preferably, a business plan should be crafted for Ken over the weekend or the following week. Without a road map, Ken may be clueless as to how he could afford the costs of operations, such as the rental. Without more funding, the scope of Ken's activities is also limited. If his mission is to promote safer sex and regular testing, and to provide counseling, to distressed gays, how could he help much more people in these areas economically? To address all these issues, he would need examination into the integral aspects of Economics, Marketing, Finance, Accounting, Project Management, Operations Management, Strategic Planning, Human Resource Management. As such, I suggest that Ken seeks the guidance of an MBA in HK. A change of perspective is often necessary for a business facing crisis to turn around. For example, Hollywood once had a crisis due to a myopic view that it was in the movie business, when entertainment was really the business it was in. That's the reason I emphasised the importance of Ken repositioning the center's business from HIV PREVENTION to HEALTHY LIFESTYLE. As for the other issues, I guess I'd leave it to the MBA-whoever he may be-who'll be helping Ken to address later. Let's all wish Ken all the best with, and thank Ken for, his endeavor.
4. 2009-10-01 10:33  
With all of HK's thriving SAUNA businesses (at least 20 or so!!!) they should start GIVING BACK to the community by taking turns SPONSORING the Center. By donating the proceeds from even their SLOWEST night of the week, making the rent would be no problem.





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