Lamma Island

Habitat for the well-off joins charity to build habitats for those not so well-off

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 April, 2010, 12:00am

Its resorts have always had an eco-mindset in sustainability and community involvement, but the Banyan Tree group now wants to help build nice roofs over the heads of not just affluent holidaymakers but poor people in Guangdong and the Philippines too. Its membership club, Banyan Tree Private Collection (BTPC), hosted a cocktail reception at the China Club on Thursday to announce a new partnership with Habitat For Humanity. It's encouraging its members - who shell out a joining fee of US$150,000 - to throw in an extra US$10,000, which BTPC will match to build 100 shelters for disadvantaged people in the two regions.

Banyan Tree's vice-president (and wife of chairman Ho Kwon-ping), Claire Chiang, flew in for the occasion and staunchly argued that corporate social responsibility was not just about doing good but was also good for business. Everyone was very committed and proactive, even if the speeches, including one from former home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping, were a bit long. Of course, there's a reason for Chiang's strong social activism. She and her former journalist husband weren't always successful hoteliers. At one time, they were just a struggling young couple trying to get by on Lamma Island.

'We had to draw water from a well, and whenever our landlord wanted to raise the rent, every other month he threatened to shut off the well,' said Chiang (centre, with BTPC managing director Marina Kleiman and Habitat For Humanity's Rick Hathaway). 'But it was still such a great community on Lamma. It's the foundation of what we do now.'