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We sit down for a chat with the founders of The Hub, one of Hong Kong’s most im­por­tant char­i­ties that’s giv­ing back – in a unique way – to the un­der­priv­i­leged youth of the city

#Legend - - HIGHLIGHTS - For more in­for­ma­tion on The Hub, visit the­hubhk.org

Con­tem­po­rary artist Peng Wei on her Joyce col­lab­o­ra­tion and her dis­tinc­tive po­etry of brush art

Roughly 229,000 chil­dren aged 18 and un­der live be­low the poverty line in Hong Kong. If you’re lucky enough to live on many parts of Hong Kong Is­land, you’re prob­a­bly shocked by this fig­ure. Head over to Sham Shui Po, how­ever, and re­al­ity will sink in. Af­ter work­ing and be­ing based in Hong Kong for many decades, Aus­tralian busi­ness­men David Boehm and Bruce Stin­son de­cided to start The Hub to give back to the lo­cal com­mu­nity, and to of­fer sup­port and em­pow­er­ment to the un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren of Sham Shui Po who had no place to play, had never set foot on Hong Kong Is­land or had ever seen grass.

#leg­end was proud to be a me­dia part­ner for this yera’s The Hub’s an­nual char­ity ball at the Grand Hy­att Hong Kong on Oc­to­ber 19, where we talked to the two founders about what we can do to cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture for Hong Kong youth.

How did The Hub get its start?

David Boehm (DB): It was early 2011 – I was hav­ing a chat with Bruce in my of­fice and we said, “Well, we’ve been liv­ing in Hong Kong for most of our work­ing lives; we should do some­thing to give back to the chil­dren of Hong Kong.” We did some in­ves­ti­ga­tion and worked with a char­ity called Against Child Abuse, and we found that there wasn’t re­ally a prob­lem with street kids here in Hong Kong, but we were re­ally shocked to learn that there were more than 200,000 chil­dren liv­ing be­low the poverty line. So that’s when we de­cided to do some­thing to help those chil­dren – and we dis­cov­ered that the poor­est dis­trict in Hong Kong at the time was Sham Shui Po, so that’s where we opened our cen­tre.

Are many peo­ple sur­prised to learn about how many chil­dren are liv­ing in poverty here?

Bruce Stin­son (BS): I think most peo­ple are ab­so­lutely stunned when they hear that statis­tic. It’s closer to a quar­ter of mil­lion chil­dren now liv­ing be­low the poverty line and peo­ple just don’t re­alise that, be­cause

Hong Kong’s the “money city”. Peo­ple come here to make money, but we don’t have a wel­fare sys­tem as you might find in other coun­tries. I guess it’s a re­spon­si­bil­ity for those who come here to make money to ac­tu­ally give some­thing back, be­cause there is a bot­tom end of so­ci­ety that does strug­gle.

I think the thing that re­ally stunned us and con­firmed what we wanted to do was by go­ing to some homes. We went with some of the chil­dren here in Sham Shui Po and – hav­ing been brought up in Aus­tralia, where al­most every child has a back­yard and a home where he can bring his friends – we saw five or six fam­i­lies liv­ing in one place with a room each, shar­ing a bath­room and a kitchen. And in their room, they only have a bunk bed and a small ta­ble. In fact, there were four to five of us on the visit, and we couldn’t all get into the room. And what struck me as an Aus­tralian was: where do they go? Where do they play? Where can they bring their friends? So The Hub pro­vides all that.

In­stead of do­nat­ing clothes or of­fer­ing med­i­cal ser­vices, The Hub of­fers ser­vices that one doesn’t usu­ally think of when sup­port­ing a char­ity.

DB: This is the place that we have the chil­dren come and we want them to ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery­thing. A place where they can get ed­u­ca­tional sup­port, play with their friends, get ex­po­sure to art, mu­sic, sport… and our ex­cur­sions are very pop­u­lar. When you live in poverty, you have no money to go and do things. One time we took a group of kids to Legco to see the govern­ment in Hong Kong. Most of them had never been to the Hong Kong side. We or­gan­ise trips to coun­try parks and some of the kids have never walked on grass. So can you imag­ine – a nine-year-old boy has never walked on grass in his life?

He’s al­ways lived in a con­crete jun­gle. So we re­ally need the phys­i­cal space to be able to do all th­ese things.

How do you think mil­len­ni­als and the younger gen­er­a­tion can get more in­volved?

BS: I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s the ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion – but mil­len­ni­als are re­ally switched on; they know what’s go­ing on and they’re re­ally com­pas­sion­ate.

DB: I think there’s a lot of hope with the mil­len­ni­als. They’re amaz­ing and a lot more so­cially con­scious com­pared to Bruce and my gen­er­a­tion. So I think there’s a big push in Hong Kong to­wards those who have a good life to help those that are not so well-off. I would hope that in the not-so-dis­tant fu­ture, we can go out of busi­ness be­cause all the kids are happy, healthy and fi­nan­cially se­cure.

Tell us a bit about your an­nual char­ity gala.

BS: We started plan­ning them in 2012 and we’ve had six now; this is our sev­enth one com­ing up. We’re both in­volved in horse rac­ing, so we dragged the horse rac­ing com­mu­nity with us and put on our first ball. David has a con­nec­tion with Hollywood and we ended up with the late [ac­tress] Car­rie Fisher there. She was amaz­ing and so sup­port­ive, and each year we’ve had a Hollywood star cour­tesy of David’s con­nec­tions, as well as the sup­port of the Jockey Club. This year, we’ve been extremely lucky be­cause David’s friend in Hollywood pro­duced Crazy Rich Asians, so we had some of the stars come to the ball in Oc­to­ber.

If there’s one thing you could share with po­ten­tial sup­port­ers who aren’t fa­mil­iar with your char­ity, what would it be?

DB: I think the mes­sage is that Hong Kong still has far too much poverty and it’s af­fect­ing far too many chil­dren. So we’re try­ing to get that mes­sage out as well as the mes­sage of what we do at The Hub. I think we have a vi­sion to cre­ate ad­di­tional Hubs, be­cause there are still so many chil­dren who don’t have ac­cess to th­ese ser­vices. As you men­tioned ear­lier, a lot of the char­ity is fo­cused on their food and cloth­ing, whereas we want to make sure that our chil­dren have a chance to be­come pro­duc­tive adults in so­ci­ety and not feel that their sit­u­a­tion is hope­less.

BS: I think an­other thing is that there are a lot of char­i­ties work­ing in this space, do­ing dif­fer­ent things, but that’s be­cause there’s a need. We don’t have a big wel­fare sys­tem in Hong Kong – and we shouldn’t. So it’s up to us as in­di­vid­u­als. We’re fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of char­i­ties that have been es­tab­lished for a long time be­cause there’s still this great de­mand. The fact that we at­tract so many chil­dren and pro­vide so many ser­vices in­di­cates that there’s a huge need, and that’s the mes­sage that we want to get to our po­ten­tial sup­port­ers.

What have been some of the best ex­pe­ri­ences that have touched you the most while work­ing with The Hub and un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren and fam­i­lies?

BS: I’ve got one story that isn’t re­ally about the chil­dren and fam­i­lies we help, but it’s al­ways re­ally stuck with me. In the very early days, we had a com­pany here do­ing a ser­vice for us for the gala and they had a charge. I went to meet them in their of­fice, th­ese two young guys, and my mis­sion was to talk them into do­nat­ing their ser­vices. I started my story, telling them all about The Hub and what we’re do­ing, and the chil­dren that are liv­ing in very poor cir­cum­stances. One of the young guys said to me: “Don’t worry, Bruce, you can stop there. We’re go­ing to do­nate this ser­vice be­cause I was one of those chil­dren.” It was very mov­ing for me.

What’s next for The Hub?

DB: We’d like to open more cen­tres. We’ve been talk­ing to the Hong Kong Jockey Club about spon­sor­ing an­other cen­tre. So hope­fully next year we can start the sec­ond Hub and keep build­ing on the suc­cess that we’ve had. We reg­u­larly have 500 kids com­ing here, so we’d like to do that for more chil­dren around Hong Kong. The kids are all from the sur­round­ing dis­trict be­cause if they’re not, then they can’t af­ford to come here, so that’s why we’d like to go to dif­fer­ent ar­eas – maybe Kwun Tong or some­where like that, where there’s also a lot of poverty – and make it eas­ier for them to get ac­cess. #

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