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Breaking taboos for a new career

April 02, 2017

Matrimonial master

Matrimonial master:  Former policeman Chow Kwok-kei has discovered a new life purpose by becoming a wedding chaperone.

Tea tradition

Tea tradition:  Mr Chow conducts the formal Chinese wedding tea ceremony with bride Kinki Leung and her parents.

Conjugal co-ordinator

Conjugal co-ordinator:  As the wedding chaperone, Mr Chow ensures the event goes to plan.

Fair chance

Fair chance:  Hong Kong Society for the Aged tutor Ho Wai-sum (second left) says there is no gender or age restriction on being a chaperone.

Chinese weddings have many traditions. One of them is having at least one chaperone in charge to ensure the event goes to plan.

 

These chaperones are usually women, however, 60-year-old Chow Kwok-kei is one of the few men to step into the role.

 

Breaking the women-only tradition has given him a fulfilling second life.

 

After 34 years in law enforcement, the former policeman retired five years ago but quickly got bored.

 

He then enrolled in a course on Chinese marriage ceremonies through the Elder-Friendly Employment Practice project introduced by the Hong Kong Society for the Aged.

 

"I was interested in Chinese weddings when I was young, and thought the chaperones were nice and good at warming everybody up. I didn’t have the chance to learn this skill when I was young, so I wanted to study it in my retirement."

 

Although gender does not affect service quality, some clients do not want a man as their wedding chaperone, making it difficult for Mr Chow to join the wedding industry.

 

"It’s taboo for men to enter the bride’s room or to help her put on her gown."

 

To solve the problem, Mr Chow teamed up with a woman business partner.

 

"It is more acceptable for my clients. I also took the course to learn hosting skills, so I can work as a chaperone during the day and host the banquet at night."

 

Equal opportunity

With his police experience, Mr Chow is good at reading people and has a better eye for detail than most ceremonial masters.

 

For one of his clients, bride Kinki Leung, it was her first time to see a male chaperone.

 

Impressed by his efforts, she said it can be beneficial to a wedding to have some masculine strength at hand.

 

"I think a male chaperone is very special. A woman chaperone is rather common. And men are usually stronger and can help carry heavy stuff," she said.

 

Hong Kong Society for the Aged tutor Ho Wai-sum taught Mr Chow about Chinese marriage ceremonies through the Elder-Friendly Employment Practice project.

 

She said there is no gender or age restriction for being a chaperone, so retirees can study the trade and then learn more about it on the job.

 

"Those who love to laugh, are cheerful and interested in Chinese culture are suitable for the job. They can study the introduction course first and take other courses once they start work as a chaperone."

 

The Elder-Friendly Employment Practice project is funded by the Jockey Club Charities Trust.

 

Through a variety of seminars and courses, the programme offers people of mid-to-senior age consultation services, a platform for information sharing, employment counselling, and voluntary work.

 

Lifelong learning

Hong Kong Society for the Aged Chairman Kim Mak said encouraging retired seniors to re-enter the labour market is a new trend that can benefit the Government, employers and people.

 

"It is an important human resource that we as a whole should tap into to sustain the economic growth of Hong Kong. But more importantly it’s also good for employers, many of whom are struggling to find the right workers.

 

"It is also good for individuals because when they work they become more engaged, they are happier, healthier and of course financially that would also give them something to maintain their interest and lifestyle."

 

The Society for the Aged has developed websites and smartphone applications to advertise job vacancies to help retirees find work, and for employers to find staff.



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