Only Dongguan: Making My Own Changes

Only Dongguan

I was born in a relatively rich family in Dongguan in 1985. I’m also one of the highly controversial post 80s generation. As most people believe, I had a worry-free childhood, went to reasonable middle and high schools, and a key university, which did require some of my efforts to get in. After the master courses in Hong Kong, I came back to Dongguan, when I took over the business and undertook the family missions.

As China has become more and more open, Western culture has penetrated our lives. Nowadays, many of the most traditional customs that existed when we were little are dying out, and some of the tasty local foods have been forgotten. I spent some time in Britain when I was in high school. At that time racial discrimination was still severe, and insulting a Chinese student in public was normal and unbearable for the students. It was then when I realized that respect was earned only from mother country’s strength and power. The Chinese society has showed misunderstanding to the overseas Chinese students. They think we are crazy about foreign cultures and obsequious to foreigners. Only, we know that the more we see outside, the more we want to contribute ourselves to our hometowns.

Only, we know that the more we see outside, the more we want to contribute ourselves to our hometowns.

My family runs a traditional four-star hotel with KTV clubs, the kind of deal that has made Dongguan known internationally. In fact, I think there’s no good or bad. Every phenomenon appearing in different times has their own meaning. What we should think about is how to do better based on past experiences, not only pursuing financial achievement, but also searching for social value through enterprise. Thus, when my older sister and I took over the business, we considered the position of our hotel in Houjie all over again and opened a “non-traditional hotel.” We hope to run the hotel with a new management style, bringing the real hotel culture to Dongguan customers. We strive to build a fashionable and healthy lifestyle to prove that our hotel in Dongguan is not merely a night club as people think.

During the preparation of the new hotel, we heard different opinions. Some people think that in Dongguan this kind of hotel can’t survive. But more often we heard something positive, especially from our parents. We hope to build a brand-new image for Dongguan’s hotel industry through our endeavors.

Other than running a hotel, I also joined the Lions Club in 2009 and founded our own team this year. As the only authorized folk charity in China, the Lions Club was introduced to Dongguan in 2009 and had great impact on local charity culture. Before, donating money was the only way. There were very limited channels to actually help the needy. People were assigned to donate in their workplaces for face value; the true meaning of charity was not publicized very well in the society.

In the Lions Club, we contact the disadvantaged groups directly, collect money and materials with our own time and resources, and visit and help them on our own. In four years, we have subsidized poor students to continue their education, helped disaster victims, and visited seniors and more. In 2010, we took a group of kids from remote poverty-stricken areas to Guangzhou and watched the Asian Games. It was a great opportunity and a memorable experience for them since many of them hadn’t been to a city. We tried to distribute yellow ribbons on the street to spread the power of love. We were misunderstood and put on guard against by passersby. But in the end more and more people joined in
our actions.

I’ve never thought of changing my hometown a great deal. I just want to keep doing every little thing to change our living environment, to influence more and more people around me, and to spread positive energy. The Dongguan Lions Club only had about 30 members at the beginning, but now it has expanded to almost 1,000 people. I believe this is one of the achievements of my efforts. I also gained a lot from working with the club; it helped me grow and gave me very precious life experience.

Organizing a branch of Lions Clubs is not easy. During this time, I have met a lot of sincere friends. About 90 percent of our members have overseas study experiences. Together we bring to Dongguan charity concepts from outside of China and try to do many little things. I especially hope that foreigners in Dongguan can pay more attention to our activities and join us in this international charity organization. We can learn from each other and help more people in need.

I’m aware that there has been a negative impression about Dongguan. For example, the traffic is too bad, pedestrians don’t follow the rules. It seems everyone is rushing, but where they are rushing to is unknown. Despite that, Dongguan still has many lovable aspects such as the diligent and pragmatic local businessmen, the warm-hearted local aunts. In the high-tech society, Dongguan still preserves some warmth among people which normally exists in small cities. People should discover and understand it with patience. My undergraduate major was sociology, which helped me become more tolerant of the city. In fact, many of my friends, they don’t complain about society, they don’t blame the reality. Instead, they put their foot down and actually do something real, which will change the city little by little eventually.

Alma Chan was born in 1985 in Houjie, Dongguan and studied Sociology in university. After growing up in a family of hoteliers, she is the founding owner of JoyC Hotel and the president of the Haigui Lions Club. Nowadays she invests most of her energy on improving social life in Dongguan.