Written by Peter Clarke, member of Outward Bound Hong Kong's Executive Committee
Given the number of lawyers that might find time to read this, I thought I should declare my interests up front. More than fifty years ago, I had my first experience of Outward Bound (OB) and have since been a lifelong supporter and occasional participant, having served as a trustee and member of ExCo for Outward Bound Hong Kong (OBHK) for over ten years.More recently, having heard their presentation at the Hong Kong Club Foundation (HKCF) Members’ forum in early 2018, I became a trustee of Chatteris. Both organisations are current grantees of HKCF and we express our sincere appreciation to the Club and its Members.
Both are well established in Hong Kong, with OBHK celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2020 and enjoying the long-term support of the Hong Kong Jockey Club among others. Chatteris was actually founded by Members of our Club nearly thirty years ago and also had the support of the Jockey Club in its early days. Both are primarily engaged in providing education and training for Hong Kong youth; in particular, the disadvantaged, or at least the less-privileged in our society.
OBHK’s emphasis is on experiential learning through offering students new challenges in unfamiliar settings, most of it outdoors. It builds resilience, self-confidence, resourcefulness, teamwork and communication skills.
Both are well established in Hong ftong, with OBHK celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2020 and enjoying the long-term support of the Hong ftong Jockey Club among others.
The HKCF grant to OBHK this year will allow 120 Form 4 students from St Antonius Girls’ College in Yau Tong to complete a five-day OBHK course in December, something that could not be contemplated by the school and parents without external funding. Having visited the school recently, I can assure Members that the Principal and staff are most appreciative of the opportunity. Indeed, ten of the girls have volunteered to compete in the OB Adventure Race later this month.
Chatteris provides Native English Teachers (CNETs) to Hong Kong’s primary and secondary schools as well as Vocational Training Centres (VTCs) and helps to enhance English- language skills by engagement, activities, guest speakers etc, and by treating English as a living language rather than a dry classroom subject with little apparent relevance to many students in their everyday lives.
Many Members may not be aware that forty-eight per cent of high-school graduates in Hong Kong do not achieve adequate grades in their English exams sufficient to even apply for university education, with the domino effect of limiting their opportunities in career choices. There are currently over 100 CNETs from nearly twenty different countries working in Hong Kong and they are typically fresh graduates who commit to a one-year assignment, many of them deciding to stay and work in Hong Kong at the end of their term.
In respect of Chatteris, HKCF is now entering its third year of funding of an extra CNET at the SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School in Kwai Chung under the “One for One” scheme, where the school pays for one CNET and a donor matches it so that CNETs can operate as a team at schools where the student numbers can exceed 1,000 and there is only one full-time Native English Teacher.
The association with Lam Woo has led to much more, however, as Club Members and friends have increasingly volunteered their time and energy to visit the school and address groups of students on subjects as diverse as career planning, sport, the environment and responsible gaming. Particularly valuable have been the smaller group sessions where Members share their life experiences, be they about travel, living in foreign countries, the value of work-life balance and so on. These sessions are rewarding to watch as the students’ horizons are expanded and their eyes are opened. We always welcome new speakers.
In the other direction, employers are beginning to offer students internships and workplace visits to help prepare them for adult life and we believe there is much more to be done in this area. Indeed, the Club itself has set a fine example whereby, following a talk at the school by Vivian and Judy from the Club’s staff, two students from Lam Woo spent a week as interns at the Club during August this year. If other Members or their organisations can provide similar experiences, please make contact and we can make arrangements.
Finally, a word about collaboration and synergies among NGOs. HKCF Chairman John Budge has pointed out that there are more than 9,000 registered charities in Hong Kong and many of them have similar objectives, albeit with differing strategies. It follows, therefore, that there are great opportunities for working together.
As a small example, the ten Lam Woo volunteers (another all-girl team!) have recently completed an OB training day as well as being registered to compete in the Adventure Race. Most recently, thanks to the generous support of a private donor, the entire Form 3 at Lam Woo, over 100 students, will join a full OB course later this year.
We welcome Members’ support and direct involvement in what can be a very rewarding exposure to aspects of Hong Kong society that many of us do not ordinarily see. Not only the students but their families and society in general can and do benefit richly from the efforts of these NGOs.
Peter Clarke is a long-term Hong Kong resident, Peter Clarke worked as an investment banker for 30 years with Saloman Brothers and Merrill Lynch. He retired in 2000, where he then took on the role as a non-exec of various private companies. He is currently non-executive chairman of Pictet Asia Ltd, Chairman of the Audit Committee for ESF and Vice Patron for the Community Chest. Peter has attended multiple Outward Bound courses over the years in the UK, Colorado and Nepal, enjoying these to such an extent that he is now a member of the OBHK board. He very much embraces the Outward Bound philosophy of adventures in the outdoors, enjoying travel, running, skiing and climbing, and takes part in various Adventure Races all over the world.