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Taking a leaf from great-granddad's book

Friday, November 20, 2015 - 05:50
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Ms Chan (centre) was shocked to see her great-grandfather's name outside a building while driving through one of Hong Kong's poorest districts with her father

THROUGH her family foundation, Dee Dee Chan hopes to break the poverty cycle by providing education. While driving through one of Hong Kong's poorest districts with her father, Ms Chan was shocked to see her great-grandfather's name, Chan Kwun Tung, outside a building.

They went in to investigate and learned that her great-grandfather and a group of friends had donated the building many years ago to be a community centre in Sham Shui Po.

Following that revelation, Ms Chan's family foundation began doing charitable work in Sham Shui Po. "Many of the community events for the elderly that we do each year take place at the elderly social centre. It just seemed right to pick up the legacy in this direction," she explains.

The Seal of Love Charitable Foundation was set up in 2009 by her family as a platform to relieve pain and suffering and to help people who are dedicated to helping others. Many of the foundation's projects are focused on providing education as a means to break the poverty cycle.

Ms Chan was a financial analyst with JP Morgan Chase in New York City before moving to Hong Kong to join BNP Paribas as a vice-president in the wealth management department. In 2010, she left banking to teach at various establishments including the International Christian School (ICS) in Hong Kong and Ecole Andre Hoareau in Reunion Island, France. She then joined her family foundation as a director, running it together with her father, Lawrence, and mother, Lillian.

Seal of Love funds non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that operate projects that are in line with the foundation's vision.

"Our role is to review organisations and review projects, so we are able to keep the organisational structure lean. We are constantly looking for NGOs who understand the situation on the ground, who are open and willing to adopt business principles in their operations if they are not doing so already, and who are dedicated to helping those who will ultimately help others," says Ms Chan.

Most of its projects are in Hong Kong and Asian locations that are a short plane ride away, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. This allows Ms Chan and her team to easily connect with local organisations as well as the target beneficiaries of the projects at any time.

The foundation's projects include providing land and building materials for a primary school in Cambodia, sponsoring students to earn vocational and university degrees in Cambodia and Thailand, and starting a radio channel to provide mass community health education in Hong Kong.

"While we regularly look for suitable projects falling within our mission statement, we find that many of the most meaningful projects come to us in an organic manner, for example, through our family travels in South-east Asia," says Ms Chan.

The family has also started a traditional Chinese medicine clinic in Sham Shui Po. Says Ms Chan: "That is part of the joy of philanthropy for us, to be able to see actual lives being changed and to see beneficiaries begin to help others in their community."