Bammy Wong : Build­ing a net­work of leg­ends

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CLORIE NG For China Daily

While most peo­ple would agree that “leg­ends are made, not born”, some might also ask: What does it take to make some­one a leg­end or be called a leg­end? And who are the leg­ends of our time?

A good per­son to ask is Bammy Wong, pres­i­dent of Asian Busi­ness Net­work As­so­ci­a­tion (ABNA), which launched the Chi­nese Canadian Leg­end Award 15 years ago to rec­og­nize Chi­nese Cana­di­ans who have made ex­cep­tional con­tri­bu­tions to their com­mu­ni­ties. So far, 95 in­di­vid­u­als from all over Canada and all walks of life have re­ceived the hon­our.

One of the unique as­pects of the award is that it doesn’t stop at nam­ing some­one a leg­end; the process also in­cludes pub­li­ca­tion of a book that col­lects the awardees’ tri­umphant sto­ries, how they rose to chal­lenges and strug­gled against ad­ver­sity to achieve ex­cel­lence and make a last­ing im­pact on their com­mu­nity.

By doc­u­ment­ing each leg­end’s ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­em­plary life, the book has be­come a rich re­source for on­go­ing re­search on Chi­nese-Canadian im­mi­grants.

Many of the peo­ple who made it into the “book of leg­ends” had been un­sung he­roes from ev­ery pos­si­ble back­ground, from sci­en­tists and ac­coun­tants to so­cial work­ers, busi­ness­men and housewives.

In that sense, the award has re-de­fined the mean­ing of leg­end by set­ting dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria. Wong said that one of the key qual­i­ties they look for in nom­i­nees is what they give — rather than what they get — in life as well as their com­mu­nity. Nom­i­na­tions are open to ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of so­cial sta­tus, gen­der, age or eco­nomic sta­tus.

The whole idea sprung from spon­ta­neous brain­storm­ing among ABNA core mem­bers in 1999 when Wong be­came pres­i­dent.

The as­so­ci­a­tion was formed in 1994 with the goal of cre­at­ing net­work­ing and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­ness­men and pro­fes­sion­als. The net­work evolved into a group of like-minded in­di­vid­u­als who shared the same pas­sion for giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity.

The cre­ation of Chi­nese Canadian Len­gends Award (CCLA) was en­vi­sioned as a timely ini­tia­tive to doc­u­ment the inspiring and touch­ing sto­ries of Chi­nese in Canada who could serve as role mod­els for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

To­day, the award is widely rec­og­nized not just in Canada, but around the world. Wong said he hoped to see more Canadian and non- Chi­nese me­dia cover the award as a way to build bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion among the mul­ti­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties of Canada.

Wong said he was once asked: “Will you be run­ning out of leg­ends soon?”

To which he an­swered: “Leg­ends will in­spire more leg­ends.”

Through the years, he has seen how the im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion has been evolv­ing. He noted how re­cent im­mi­grants from China are en­joy­ing more prospects and op­por­tu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially with the ad­vanc­ing po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic ties be­tween China and Canada.

By the same to­ken, they have to face a dif­fer­ent set of chal­lenges, let alone hav­ing to start their lives from scratch in a new coun­try.

That ex­pe­ri­ence strikes a per­sonal chord with Wong, who also faced the chal­lenges and strug­gles of com­ing to Canada as a for­eign stu­dent from Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion in the 1970s, and when he came back again in the 1990s as a landed im­mi­grant to chart a new course in life on a blank slate.

In 1981, af­ter grad­u­at­ing with a busi­ness man­age­ment de­gree from Mon­tana State Uni­ver­sity-Boze­man, Wong re­turned to Hong Kong and started to progress along a solid ca­reer path. But the love of a chal­lenge drove him to ap­ply for im­mi­gra­tion to Canada.

When he made it to Canada in the early 1990s, he ran headon into the af­ter­math of the re­ces­sion in North Amer­ica and had to stretch to the end of his wits to make ends meet.

With a con­tact list of just four peo­ple in Toronto, he ven­tured into fi­nan­cial plan­ning and very soon started cold­call­ing, knock­ing on strangers’ doors, as his hand­ful of con­tacts ran out in no time.

With per­sis­tence and dili­gence, not to men­tion the un­fail­ing sup­port of his wife, who stood by him all the time while also tak­ing care of their daugh­ter, Wong has be­come a well-es­tab­lished cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner, boasting clien­tele from a va­ri­ety of com­mu­ni­ties.

His “golden rules of suc­cess” are: ded­i­ca­tion, di­rec­tion, ac­tion, and re­view. Not rocket science, but no short­cut ei­ther.

He also cred­its his “wild card”. “It’s the love of adventure that keeps me go­ing,” he said. “A lit­tle bit of risk-tak­ing can be good for you.”

Such are the words of wis­dom he wants to pass on to the next gen­er­a­tion, as they grow up to face an era of un­cer­tain­ties and risks in life.

ABNA also took it upon it­self to raise a new gen­er­a­tion of young lead­ers who are get­ting in­volved in or­ga­niz­ing ABNA events, and through the process learn from out­stand­ing lead­ers and role mod­els.

Wong was par­tic­u­larly proud of the fact that his deep in­volve­ment in the com­mu­nity has rubbed off on his daugh­ter, who is now an ac­tive mem­ber of the group. With that same spirit of adventure and heart for char­ity, she has been vol­un­teer­ing for nu­mer­ous char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing sign­ing up for trips to Africa and China to teach English and as­sist­ing in a con­struc­tion project for a pri­mary school.

As the net­work of leg­ends con­tin­ues to ex­tend, ABNA has re­cently kicked off the nom­i­na­tion process for 2015 CCLA, with a dead­line of June 30.

What the faces of this year’s leg­ends will look like re­mains a mys­tery, but one thing is for sure: There are al­ways leg­ends in the mak­ing.

(LI NA / CHINA DAILY)

Bammy Wong,

BAMMY WONG Ed­u­ca­tion: • Bach­e­lor of Science, Ac­count­ing and Busi­ness/Man­age­ment Mon­tana State Uni­ver­sity-Boze­man Ca­reer: • 1991 – Present Cer­ti­fied Fi­nan­cial Plan­ner Des­jardins Fi­nan­cial Se­cu­rity In­de­pen­dent Net­work Or­ga­ni­za­tions: • Pres­i­dent, Asian Busi­ness Net­work As­so­ci­a­tion Co-Chair, Golden Do­na­tion En­dow­ment Canadian Chi­nese Out­reach Vice-Pres­i­dent, Fu Hui Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion

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