He was pouring over a large pile of documents as I walked into Origo Club. “Mr. Vinci Wong?”, I quietly inquired. The Chairman lowered his pen and nodded with a welcoming smile.
Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGH) is Hong Kong’s first and largest charitable organization, and a widely known name in Chinese communities all over the world. Established in 1870, it dedicates itself to a broad spectrum of social services. What interested me initially was their wide range of community aid services, which includes free medication, education facilities, burials for the impoverished and even emergency relief in times of natural calamity.
When I sat down with Chairman Vinci Wong, he revealed a most interesting fact -- each chairman term only lasts for one year. This came as a surprise as I considered the size of the organization and the scope of their projects. With over 300 service centers, the operation of 55 schools and 5 hospitals, the constant change of management at TWGH seemed a unique choice. Eager to learn more, the interview began.
P: I hope your trip to Vancouver was a smooth one, Chairman Vinci Wong. How has the organization managed to grow and sustain its growth since its establishment?
V: We began from the humble beginnings of distributing free medicine to those in need. As our founders cared for the social needs of others, they expanded into burial services, emergency relief and education development. We are now Hong Kong’s largest charity organization, and one of our duties is to set an example for others, to innovate ways to provide charitable services that are relevant to the times. The work we do affects all stages of the life cycle -- from growth to aging to illness to death. And for these 148 years, we have always stood firm on our mission:
To heal the sick and to relieve the distressed,
to care for the elderly and to rehabilitate the disabled,
to promote education and to nurture the youngsters, and
to raise the infant and to guide the youth.
P: In your opinion, what have been the key success factors of the organization?
V: Our organization is run like a long distance marathon, where the baton is passed from one chairman to another year after year. As I have mentioned, my presidency lasts only one year. It is the same for my predecessors. I believe society is rapidly changing, and this system provides flexibility and ensures fresh ideas are brought to the table each year. All of our Chairmen give their best -- their 200% -- during their term. With refreshed leadership and a large platform of well-trained, experienced staff, the work we do at TWGH never feels stale and is always relatable to present needs.
P: I understand you are currently in Vancouver as part of your overseas initiative to bring students to visit cities abroad. What is the purpose of these ambassador programs?
V: The ambassador program was established in 2015, and these overseas trips happen annually. One mission of TWGH is to promote all-rounded education. This means, outside of academics, we also place emphasis on nurturing leadership abilities, social skills and an understanding of international issues. I think it is important for young people to learn more about cultures outside of their own. This expands their breadth to empathise with others. They also gain the opportunity to interact with Chinese communities from other parts of the world, to see for themselves the challenges immigrants overcome when they move to a new country.
P: How did you and your group decide on Vancouver?
V: I happened to have lived and studied in Vancouver myself when I was young, hence the location choice for this year. It is a beautiful city and feels like a second home to me (laughs). Thankfully, my choice was well rewarded. The university I attended, University of British Columbia, organized a tour and seminar for our students. Local media giant Fairchild Group is documenting our entire journey. We will be soaking in this beautiful Vancouver sunshine and will be observing the wildlife here, such as going whale watching and seeing the yearly salmon migration. Our students will also get to visit the Chinese Embassy and learn the history of Chinese-Canadians.
P: Are you visiting any other cities in British Columbia?
V: We are also going to the capital city, Victoria. In fact, we were warmly greeted by the groups there! It has been years since they have received visitors from an overseas organization. Despite the cities being so close (just a ferry ride away), Vancouver often steals the spotlight from its neighbouring cities. I was surprised, but very grateful, for their benevolent welcome.
P: It’s been years since I’ve been to Victoria myself! It is a beautiful city, and I am sure your students will enjoy their trip there. Now, last but not least, what is your goal as the Chairman of the 2018 / 2019 term?
V: For this year, I want to continue leading TWGH to provide the best services for all groups in society, and to encourage more people to join our cause. My motto is: To espouse the wisdom of sages, to advocate the virtues of benevolence, to serve and to benefit the community with a thoughtful mind and a compassionate heart.
We want to thank Mr. Vinci Wong for taking the time to sit down with us for this insightful interview to introduce us to Hong Kong’s first and largest charitable organization, and to share his vision and goals for his 2018-2019 term. We look forward to seeing more of the organization’s international footprint in the coming years. To learn more about the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, visit their website here.