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ESF The First 50 Years - People stories

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English Schools Foundation

Learning how to give back

ESF alumna: Cathy Lee

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 June, 2017, 11:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 June, 2017, 11:02am

[Sponsored article] Cathy Lee is immensely grateful for her time at South Island School (SIS) and for everything she was able to learn. The great learning environment not only helped her fulfil her potential, but also taught her respect, organisation and self-discipline.

“All my friends, classmates and teachers were so supportive, and played a huge role in shaping who I am today,” says Cathy. “We learnt to accept different points of view, and students were constantly encouraged to not only focus on academics but on other extracurricular activities.” Some of her fondest memories include performing at weekly assemblies, running game booths at the annual school fair and spending three days on a boat during an adventurous school camp.

“ESF gave me a wonderful education,” she adds. “An important part of growing up was having students that had special educational needs as peers. We were taught to care, respect and help one another. The spirit of empathy and compassion was embodied by everyone at the school.”

This experience, Cathy explains, made her realise how important it is for every child, irrespective of circumstance, to get a good education. Today, Cathy supports both local and international charities with a mission to help underprivileged children go to school.

Cathy became the first Asian patron of Save the Children Hong Kong in 2016, a year after the Nepal earthquake which destroyed more than 600,000 homes.

She recalls visiting Nepal’s worst earthquake-stricken areas and being shocked to see that three million families were still without permanent shelter. And while over 500 temporary schools have been built by Save the Children since the tragedy, there’s still much that needs to be done. Therefore, she set up the Children’s Emergency Fund to help the children in disaster-stricken areas from Nepal to Ecuador and Ethiopia.

Locally, she set up the Glamour To Give Charity with her husband, Martin Lee, to alleviate the sufferings of the needy with a focus on providing much needed support for underprivileged children. She is also an Honorary Patron of Summerbridge Hong Kong, which allows underprivileged youths to participate in summer camps within an immersive English language environment.

“Summerbridge is a wonderful programme,” explains Cathy. “It’s not just about learning English, it’s also about building confidence, teamwork, and helping each other learn. It feels like a big family!”  

In addition, as a goodwill ambassador of the Chi Heng Foundation since 2007, Cathy is determined to help orphans whose parents have fallen victim to the HIV virus. “Most of these children live in poverty, but do not have HIV themselves. So they have very long and bright futures ahead of them. Unfortunately, because their parents died from the virus, they face discrimination,” she says. “We try to put them into local schools as we don’t want these children to be stigmatised as ‘AIDS impacted’. Hopefully, education can give them a chance at a brighter future.” The results thus far have been promising – previous beneficiaries have grown up, graduated from university and returned to work with Chi Heng, helping children in similar positions.  

“I fondly reminisce my time back at school,” says Cathy. “I hope all ESF students appreciate how lucky they are to receive an education that combines so many areas of experience. Don’t be afraid to say yes to as many opportunities as possible, it is only through trial and error that you may unexpectedly discover where your true passions lie.”