Soul of Chinatown —

How this non-profit is breathing new life into Sydney’s Chinatown

How this non-profit is breathing new life into Sydney’s Chinatown
Sydney’s Chinatown was hit hard during the COVID lockdowns. News stories about the closure of yet another Sydney establishment seemed far too common. Not wanting to see their beloved precinct fade away, three locals Hayden Wong, Kevin Cheng, and Peter Wong started the non-profit Soul of Chinatown in June 2021.
by Jay Ooi Feb 20, 2024 — 2 min read
How this non-profit is breathing new life into Sydney’s Chinatown

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Born from a love of this iconic district, Peter, Hayden, and Kevin set out to breathe new life into Sydney’s Chinatown.

“We wanted to initially capture the stories and memories of Chinatown before they were lost forever, but we quickly evolved into an advocacy and community group that championed the area,” says Kevin.

A place of history and culture

You’ll find a ‘Chinatown’ in a lot of major cities outside of China, but what started as communities forming during gold rushes or other opportunities has evolved into the bustling neighbourhoods of today – they’re tourist destinations, places of work, and centres of delicious food.

“Chinatown is the historical home for Chinese-Australians, and it symbolises struggle, sacrifice, hardship but also survival, success and prosperity. It has evolved into a unique playground and community for Asian-Australians, with its own unique Chinatown identity,” says Kevin.

Since launching, Soul of Chinatown has done a lot – ran a street festival with local artists, hosted events at Chinatown venues, raised money for their “rice fund” – a hamper of grocery essentials for elderly Chinese in social housing, and even hosted a panel at SXSW Sydney. But they do even more.

“My proudest moment has been starting Chinatown Comedy Club, the area’s first ever comedy event, and one that champions Asian-Australian comedians,” says Kevin. “Our last event for Lunar New Year garnered more than 200 attendees and it was a celebration of our community.”

Moving merch

If the team doesn’t do enough, they also commission and sell Chinatown-themed merch. “The first product was a series of Chinatown postcards featuring illustrations of Chinatown icons, by emerging artist Shirley Zhuo,” says Kevin. “We sold these postcards, and other merch including T-shirts, at our own events and market stalls, so we needed an easy-to-use and affordable POS system.”

The team started with a Square Reader, but have grown to also use Tap to Pay on iPhone and a Square Terminal. And with multiple volunteer team members, the team loves being able to share access for everyone to start taking payments.

“Tap to Pay on iPhone has been a game changer for us. Sometimes during busy events we need multiple POS’s so it’s really been very useful,” says Kevin.

And for the team who all work other jobs outside of Soul of Chinatown, Square’s reporting helps them stay on top of their accounts. “The ability to generate sales reports is crucial, as we don’t have the experience or time to do so otherwise,” says Kevin.

Tomorrow’s Chinatown

For the Soul of Chinatown team, it’s not just about creating a thriving Chinatown today, but also rebuilding a community for generations to come, honouring the precinct’s history and trailblazers.

“In the future, we want to continue to build community in Chinatown, grow our Chinatown Comedy Club, and partner with more Asian-Australian artists and businesses,” says Kevin. “Our ultimate goal is to start Chinatown’s very own community centre, a community space for people to come to learn about history, culture and language.”

Jay Ooi
Jay Ooi is a Social Media Manager at Square and a contributing writer to The Bottom Line.

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