The founder of Bebegarten Group— and Hong Kong Tatler’s Most Promising Young Lady of 2012— had an encounter as a teenage traveller that sparked her desire to help others
Claudine Ying’s perspective was transformed at the age of 13 when her parents took her on a trip to Inner Mongolia. Up to then, she had only visited developed countries and blithely assumed most people lived in conditions similar to her own. “From the moment we touched down, I was frightened and in awe of what I saw. There were people sleeping on the roads in freezing conditions and whole families living in one room. The trip opened my eyes to the suffering all around us and sometimes I even wonder if I would have gone into education without it. I hadn’t been exposed to poverty before, and my parents purposely took me to rural areas to show me the reality of the situation. I realised I had been so wrapped up in my own life that I had no idea how children in other countries grew up.”
During the trip, while they were in a remote village near the Russian border, a girl about her own age gave Ying a small toy elephant. The memory of this spontaneous act of generosity from someone who had so little has stayed with Ying ever since. “The girl wanted to make me happy, simple as that. And I realised in that moment that despite all my previous ambitions of becoming a lawyer, improving the lives of others was the best possible vocation I could have.”
Ying went on to study social work at the University of Hong Kong and later founded a nursery school called Bebegarten Education Centre in Aberdeen. Passionate about education and particularly about inspiring children to learn from a very young age, she is also involved in the Yanai Foundation, which provides schoolbooks to underprivileged children on the mainland. She’s planning to expand the Bebegarten Group to Hainan next year.
“I am so happy and fulfilled in my work. It is a heavy burden on my shoulders and sometimes I wonder if I should have done something different with my life, but ultimately, whenever you’re working with kids, the reward is worth any pain you suffer along the way.”