Corporate Matchmaker to the Poor and Marginalised

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By See Foon Chan-Koppen

Anak Perak - Peggy WongFor someone to whom giving is second nature, Dr Peggy Wong came beaming into the restaurant bearing gifts for the three of us. Coming to Ipoh from KL just for the day, the fact that she even had time to think about a ‘little something’ Chinese New Year gift during her short sojourn here and I wasn’t even meant to join them for lunch, warmed me to her immediately. Interviewing this chirpy, upbeat, respected global entrepreneur, socialite and philanthropist was not only smooth sailing but an uplifting experience as she regaled us with anecdotes about her philanthropic work and the adventures that it brought into her life.

Dr Peggy Chan. Wong has successfully built many businesses, but meeting children from underprivileged circumstances had such an impact on her that her focus now is on helping children in need.

Some of these children do not even have one meal a day. Some walk for 2 hours to go to school and 2 hours back home again. There are children who go to school for only 14 days a year, as and when their parents can afford the boat fare. And there are those who carry a precious pair of shoes on their back and wear them only when they reached school.”

Thus Dr Wong started Living Hope in May 2007 as a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative to bring both awareness and resources to these children. Since that time, Dr Wong has travelled all over Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, to meet these children, understand their plight and bring much needed help in terms of donations that go towards the feeding and education programmes that she has set up. She firmly believes that education is the one and only way out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

A former banker with an international bank, she founded her own group of companies in Malaysia and Singapore, which is involved in joint ventures, investments and strategic alliances. She was the Charter President of the Kiwanis Club of Bukit Bandaraya, a member of the Kuala Lumpur Speakers’ Club, former panel advisor of the Women’s Institute of Management, a life member of the Harvard Alumni of Malaysia, Harvard Business School Alumni and member of the Corporate Malaysia Roundtable, a prestigious private sector think-tank.

Serving the poor and needy is in her DNA. Dr Wong comes from an Ipoh family of philanthropists. Her grandfather, a Chinese physician, gave free medicine to the migrant workers who came by boat to Malaysia from China. Her father is Chan Chee Keong, an industrialist who brought in several industries in the 70s and also a millionaire and philanthropist. He continued giving free medicine to the needy and helped build Chinese schools in Perak. One of our Ipoh roads is named after him. Dr Wong who was born and educated in Ipoh, followed her father in his charitable activities and it was ingrained in her to serve the underprivileged during her early years.

Her charitable works include her contributions to WWF, Kosovo war victims, J.E. victims, old folks’ homes, spastic children, orphanages and families of the blind in Malaysia and internationally.

Her life is driven by three basic principles: to be a blessing to others as God has blessed her; that it is more blessed to give than to receive and her fervent belief that we come into this world with nothing and will go away with nothing. Along the way, we ought to help the poor and needy.

Often teased by her friends and nicknamed the ‘Corporate Matchmaker’ Dr Wong tirelessly acts as a go-between the rich and famous and the poor. “My corporate and business connections give me access to ‘big guns’ who need help in seeking out deserving causes to support. So the best thing is both parties are happy,” she bubbles.

Living Hope has started the “One Egg-One Child” programme which provides breakfast or lunch for children from hard-core poor families, who go to school without meals on school days. It has also launched the “Educate a Child” programme by sourcing and donating school uniforms, shoes and socks, school bags, books, stationery and other educational needs.

“I prefer to deal directly with the donors and recipients. After they have established the initial contact and donation, they continue on their own and provide me with feedback. I encourage them to make personal visits or check these recipients out for themselves. I earn nothing from this except the satisfaction that I have helped some people alleviate their problems,” she said.

To let  marginalised children know that ‘someone out there cares’ as stated in their Mission statement, Living Hope has also successfully set up Channel of Hope Distribution Program and the Toy and Book Library (TBL). To date, Living Hope has touched the lives of more than 27,200 children in every single state in Malaysia as well as some in Singapore, India, China and Philippines.

Driven by a personal vision to do her part to alleviate the suffering of these children and applying her corporate wisdom, she has dedicated herself to being an instrument to bring living hope and love to these little ones. Since starting Living Hope, Dr Wong has been to places she has never imagined and touched the lives of people she never knew existed. Her greatest joy is seeing the smiles on the faces of children who have only known hunger and poverty.

“And we have only just begun. There is so much more to do and so many more people to help,” she concluded.

Dr Wong is a well sought after public speaker and author of popular Life’s Little Secrets series of Hope, Inner Peace, Love and Wisdom.

Any person or organisation wishing to help, contribute or donate, Dr Peggy Wong can be reached at:
[email protected].