In faith, hope and charity
Jacqueline Leung Po-chu is grateful for the opportunity to meet new faces, learn new skills and find joy in her role as chairman of Po Leung Kuk, one of Hong Kong’s largest non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Leung oversees more than 260 units across Hong Kong that provide services including education, child and elderly care, adoption services, and cultural and recreational facilities.
Founded in the 19th century as a shelter for women and children facing the threat of kidnapping and trafficking, Po Leung Kuk employs more than 4,300 people and serves hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries a year.
The founder and managing director of the Poscelin Group, a garment business, Leung joined Po Leung Kuk’s board in 2000 and served as a vice-chairman before taking-up her current role in April.
“I had been supporting schools in the mainland for many years before joining Po Leung Kuk. At that time, a friend suggested I should get involved in charity work in Hong Kong and introduced me to the then chairman,” she says. Recommendation from the NGO’s chairman is needed to secure board membership. There are 14 board members and five vice-chairmen.
Leung frequently meets with the chief executive officer and other senior managers to discuss new policies and programmes and make sure she stays up to date with all planning and operations.
Handling bundles of paperwork is also a part of her daily routine, as is attending meetings with government officials and representatives of NGOs and businesses. She also attends a multitude of events – there are more than 600 regular meetings and events a year.
“This is a very challenging role. I have to provide leadership to the organisation, be well-versed in the changing needs of Hong Kong society and think of new programmes that meet the needs of the community,” Leung says.
Since becoming the head of Po Leung Kuk, she has launched several initiatives that reflect her ideas of how the community should best be served. Among the new programmes is a medical service for the elderly, where Po Leung Kuk hires doctors to provide care for elderly-home residents to save them the trouble of going to clinics or hospitals. There are also plans to establish a HK$60 million medical fund to provide support to those who need urgent medical treatment, but cannot afford private care.
Leung intends to set up a social enterprise – businesses aiming to help the poor and disadvantaged – which will employ ex-inmates and people without work. Another programme in the pipeline is expected to provide assistance to young people by helping them find a job, offering counselling services and giving them the chance to take part in life-enriching activities like leadership camps.
Believing that charity shouldn’t be the exclusive realm of the rich and powerful, Leung is also working on a programme that promotes philanthropy among Hong Kong people, scheduled for rollout in the next few months. Part of the initiative will see participating businesses encourage their employees to donate small sums – such as HK$10 or HK$100 – to Po Leung Kuk in support of its services for children.
In her spare time Leung enjoys singing Cantonese opera. She performs the traditional art form at Po Leung Kuk’s fundraiser every year. “I appreciate the beauty of Chinese literature and the fact that the lyrics promote moral values and virtues such as loyalty, filial piety and kindness,” says Leung, who spearheaded a programme teaching Cantonese opera in two secondary schools sponsored by Po Leung Kuk.
Leading a large organisation with a social responsibility is no small feat. Leung says a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to the community has kept her motivated.
“I have learned so many things that I wouldn’t have had the chance to be exposed to in the business world, such as the operation of schools, elderly homes and childcare services. I have also learned how to support the government’s policies, such as in caring for the elderly. I feel very happy to be able to help and care for other people.”
She is applying the lessons she has learned from 30 years of running her own business to her work at Po Leung Kuk. This includes the need to think things through carefully when planning a project and the importance of persistence, especially in the face of difficulties.
“You must have faith. There are bound to be obstacles and you have to persist and overcome each and every one of them,” she says.