Mission to save the world

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 September, 2010, 12:00am


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Gloria Chang Wan-ki is campaign manager for Greenpeace China. She is responsible for leading the non-governmental organisation's (NGO) climate change campaign in Hong Kong. Chang was formerly president of the Hong Kong University's (HKU) Students' Union.

Tell us about your advocacy career

It started in my first year at university, when I was chairperson of the student association of the department in which I was studying. This was 1997 and we organised many public policy forums, and published material about what was going on in Hong Kong politically and socially. I became very aware of the social and political issues at the time, and became well acquainted with many university students' union officials.

I was asked to join the university's students' union cabinet in my third year. It was a difficult decision. I had been actively involved in student-association activities and I wanted to focus on my studies. But I decided to rise to the challenge. After graduating from HKU, I enrolled for a master's degree in development studies at the London School of Economics, before working for an NGO called Hong Kong Democratic Development Network. I joined Greenpeace in 2003.

Was your family supportive?

While my parents opposed my decision to join the students' union, they trusted me and tried to understand things from my point of view. I told them that I would prove that [the decision] would be a good learning experience. [The process] helped strengthen my relationship with my parents. They understood that they could not shape me into an accountant or a civil servant that they wanted me to be. I would need to pursue my own path.

What is it like to work for an NGO?

It's more than an office job. You need to have a mission and passion in what you are doing because it's not just for your own, but also for the sake of others.

Is saving the world a tough job?

Saving the world is hard, and the rule of thumb is, if you can survive in the first two years, you should be ok. The pay is lower than that in the commercial sector, and working hours can be long. You'll always be struggling, trying to figure out how to achieve your mission. You'll need to persuade yourself and those around you that what you're doing is worthwhile.

What advice do you have for young people considering a career in NGOs?

NGOs are a very good platform to test your skills and develop a social network. NGOs usually operate under a very tight budget, and you need to go out to talk to people to get resources for your projects. My advice is to seize whatever opportunities come your way, but also to discuss this with your parents, so that they won't have unrealistic expectations.

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All in the job

Direct Action. For example, non-violent activities to raise awareness and to pressure target groups

Conducting research, often in partnership with professional institutions

Giving policy recommendations to stakeholders