Australian couple's top award for Crossroads Foundation

Malcolm and Sally Begbie's charity work in international aid gets prestigious award

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2012, 4:59am

When Malcolm and Sally Begbie first started out helping NGOs, they simply wanted to make some small difference.

Now their work has been recognised with a top honour from their home country, Australia.

The couple are founders of the Hong Kong charity, Crossroads Foundation. They were appointed Officers of the Order of Australia by Paul Tighe, Australia's consul general to Hong Kong and Macau, last week in a ceremony witnessed by family and friends. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also attended.

"It's not something we consciously targeted, but it is a huge honour and an encouragement to keep doing this work," Sally said.

Tighe said the awards "recognise Malcolm and Sally not only as Australians, but also as outstanding global citizens".

Originally from Sydney, the couple came to Hong Kong in 1986. Malcolm, 69, an accountant, and Sally, 61, a public relations consultant, had called on their professional skills to help non-governmental organisations involved in international aid since 1975, but never intended to start their own charity here.

Their lives changed when, in July 1995, they were asked to help flood victims in the northeastern province of Liaoning . Rather than providing their normal PR and accounting services, they were asked for humanitarian aid. The pair marshalled volunteers in Hong Kong and prepared several relief shipments.

Donations continued to pour in after the initial aid, while requests for relief supplies also increased. In time, the Begbies were advised by the Social Welfare Department to register as an NGO.

"We could not stop it from starting. Now, we can't stop it from growing," Malcolm said.

Appointments to the Order of Australia confer the country's highest recognition for outstanding achievement and service. The Crossroads founders were honoured for "distinguished service to the international community in the provision of humanitarian relief, particularly through the Crossroads, and as a significant contributor to United Nations efforts to connect business organisations with those in need".

Today, Crossroads routinely receives donations from thousands of organisations and individuals in Hong Kong. They distribute half to people in need within Hong Kong and the rest to more than 60 other countries.