Green Queen hosted the second edition of our United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) #PlantBased Dinner Series, bringing our community together at Africa Coffee & Tea, Hong Kong’s resident Ethiopian restaurant, and featuring a talk by Hong Kong & Philippines-based NGO International Care Ministries (ICM) to call attention to SDG #1 No Poverty.
At the core of our dinner series is a mission to bring people together to enjoy a delicious, unique meal made entirely from plants, all the while sparking discussion about what we as a community can do to make the world a better place, and how to inspire others around us to do so too. This past Wednesday, we managed to do just that.
Before dinner, we came together to listen to the empowering story of Daryl Dimaymay. Today, Daryl is a happy, passionate NGO worker. But as a child, Daryl lived a life of extreme poverty. He and his family lived in a metal shack in Negros Occidental, squatting on borrowed corporate land and subsisting on less than US$ 0.50 a day.
It was hard not to fight back tears when he described the day his mother had to choose whether to keep sending him to school post Grade 5 or to give his 4-year old sister a chance to go to school. The family could not afford both. One of his stories also illustrated the real effects of climate change on the ultra poor- during the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, his family make-shift roof flew off and it was months before they could afford to replace it.
Listening to Daryl’s story, one so far from what most of can imagine or have experienced, was humbling to say the least. It was an important reminder of how lucky many of us Hong Kongers really are and that only a few hours away by plane, life can be so different. Daryl’s story is sad, yes. But it is also one full of hope, thanks to the work of people like Staci and ICM. Thanks to ICM’s Business in a Box programme, Daryl’s mother was able to start selling homemade snacks, giving her a livelihood and some independence. ICM also helped Daryl completed his education and eventually offered him a role in the organisation.
ICM’s Staci England shared with us a little about what ICM and their mission to end extreme poverty. Did you know there are still over 800 million people living under USD 1.90 a day globally? For the past 25 years, they have targeted ultra poor Filipino communities living in extreme poverty, most of whom lack basic needs such as access to safe water, education, and sanitation. We were given a sense of the different dimensions of poverty that we may not think of, such as the feelings of powerlessness and the constant lack of control. One of the reasons we chose to invite ICM to speak is that the Hong Kong-based charity works in the Philippines, a country defined by its migrant worker population. Filipino domestic workers sacrifice so much of their lives to serve ours in Hong Kong, so ICM’s work hits close to home.
Our co-host for the event was Africa Coffee & Tea, a beautiful restaurant created to introduce Hong Kong to the delicious food traditions of Ethiopia specifically and the African continent more generally. For the first time in Hong Kong, our guests experienced a vegan Ethiopian tasting menu, followed by a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
Ethiopian cuisine is a communal affair: a selection of Berbere-spiced wats (a cross between a curry and a stew) are served on straw platters along with injera, the much-heralded teff grain fermented sourdough flatbreads (the sour, spongey bread is addictively good, and made from naturally gluten-free teff, a grain native to the country), which you use to pick up and eat with with (no utensils). Ethiopian food lends itself to veganism: beans, pulses and vegetables feature heavily throughout the cuisine and the country has a long history of regular fasting days. Ethiopia is also the birthplace of coffee, and the caffeinated bean features heavily in daily meals.
Shared in groups and eaten by hand, as is done in authentic Ethiopian dining, the delicious meal we devoured rung true to what our dinner series is about – to take a break from our individual lives and commune together as a society to think and be aware of global issues. And that we did – filling up the room with meaningful conversations about issues bigger than our own, as individuals – whether it was a discussion on widening socioeconomic inequality, gender equality or global warming and the pollution crisis.
The theme of community is important because it is only through collectively engaging that we can truly build a greener planet with a better future for all. We have to gather together if we are to put an end to global issues like poverty, inequality and climate change. Through listening to moving stories like Daryl’s, seeing the passion of people like Staci, experiencing the commitment of business owners like Charlene and enjoying a plant-based meal from a new culture, whilst discussing the real issues at hand, we might just have a chance to make this world a better place. True to the venue’s name – Africa Coffee & Tea, which comes together to form ACT – we all left that evening inspired to act in our everyday lives.
We hope that you will join us for upcoming editions of this very special and purposeful UN SDG #PlantBased Dinner series in the future. To make sure you never miss out on our events and news, do Follow Green Queen and don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter too!
All images courtesy of Green Queen.