Ben Fong (HS'01)
Building Bridges of Hope With Building Blocks
There’s a saying that if you do what you love, the money will follow.
As a small child in Hong Kong, Ben Fong (HS’01) would spend hours playing with LEGO interlocking bricks, never dreaming that, three decades later, he would make his living building with LEGO. Today, Ben works for Legend Creative Limited, an Asian company that uses LEGO to build replicas of famous buildings and landmarks for displays and educational purposes.
“It’s a very creative medium to work in,” Ben explains. “You make something that no one else can copy. These are your designs, your vision – a complete original. I always loved working with LEGO and never thought I could do this for a living. I started winning LEGO competitions in Hong Kong about two years ago, and was offered the chance to do this as a career.”
Ben says it takes teamwork to build models that can be the size of a smart car – and to deliver them to the client in as little as a month. As lead designer and builder, Ben acts as the Project Manager, using a handful of staff to assemble his creations. He credits his time at Luther College high school for important lessons in channelling his creativity and developing
his work ethic.
“I had a wonderful teacher named Dr. Cherland who taught me how to think outside of the box when singing and to sing with my whole body, not just my voice,” he enthuses. “It’s the same with LEGO. You don’t just use your mind, you use your whole body. While on the football team, I learned strong leadership and good communication skills which I use today!”
Ben arrived at the high school campus in grade 9 with the aim of improving his English. He quickly made a name for himself in choir, football, and basketball. The standout athlete and academic had set his sights on medical school at the University of Saskatchewan, but his parents – owners of a string of Hong Kong hotels – fell on hard times in the early 2000’s. The Hong Kong financial crisis resulted in Ben returning home to continue his studies.
After completing his education, Ben worked in a number of jobs (even opening his own restaurant), but never quite found his passion. He wound up like many people, working just to pay the bills and using his after-hours activities to feed his soul. For Ben, that meant having his LEGO creations take over his kitchen table and living room, often resulting in cramped living quarters for his soon-to-be wife, Mavis, and his dog, Emo.
Today, Ben gets to “play” at work, carving out a unique career with tiny building blocks. Ironically, the same political and economic uncertainty that forced Ben to return home after high school is also playing havoc with his ability to travel and promote his creations throughout Asia. “As you know, Hong Kong students are protesting for more democratic freedom, and Chinese authorities are cracking down. Many Chinese companies would like to do business with us in Hong Kong but they worry about the current unrest,” explains Ben. “Hong Kong was like a war zone today. One protestor was shot in the chest. It’s so hard when you see all this happening around you.”
While politics are complex and dangerous, Ben believes LEGO can help build bridges – both literally and figuratively. “I envision one day building models to help math, art, and geography students learn more about the world around them,” he says. “There are no politics in LEGO – just dreaming big, using your imagination, and getting along with others.”
Ben’s hope for the future is especially fitting considering that the name LEGO is short for “leg godt“ in Danish – which means, literally, “play well.”