Redefining charity with an open mind
Programme pursued at Lingnan University: Honours Diploma (Major in Marketing) 1989
Present career: Director of Development, China & Hong Kong, Orbis
What empowers me to keep refreshing myself is the critical thinking capability and the sense of social responsibility acquired during my studies at Lingnan.
Charity is not about how much we give, but how much love we put into giving. Similarly, education is not about how much we learn, but how much knowledge we put into practice. That is what Mary Lau, a graduate of marketing studies at Lingnan University in 1989, has realised in her 16 years of service at Orbis Hong Kong, a renowned charitable organisation contributing to the fight against blindness and eye disease in developing countries.
Interdisciplinary curriculum widens learning opportunities
Currently Director of Development, China and Hong Kong at Orbis, Mary is taking up an integrated role covering business development, marketing, corporate communications, branding and donor service. Unlike other product types on the market, “charity” is abstract, making it more challenging to get people to buy in, especially when Mary must face a broad range of stakeholders including individuals, schools, and organisations.
“What empowers me to keep refreshing myself is the critical thinking capability and the sense of social responsibility acquired during my studies at Lingnan,” Mary says. “Even now, I still believe that what I learned at college was amazing!” Despite being a student of marketing studies, Mary had the chance to study social policy and the art of logical thinking, and also conducted research into special, in-depth topics such as the decriminalisation of homosexuality and euthanasia. Lingnan’s broad-based, interdisciplinary curriculum widened her horizons, enabling her to see things from different perspectives, something particularly beneficial in her current management role. “There are people from all walks of life, from different generations and education backgrounds, working at Orbis. I understand that differences should be handled properly in line with the principles of mutual respect, seeking common ground while putting aside differences and making steady progress,” says Mary. “Only when everybody gets along with tolerance, appreciation and concern can we derive maximum benefit from our taskforce.”
Orbis Hong Kong organises various innovative fundraising campaigns to eradicate blindness, such as the “Orbis Moonwalkers”, a 20-km overnight walk in which participants, or “Moonwalkers”, walk blindfolded for 10 minutes to experience what it is like to live in a world of darkness while fundraising for sight-saving initiatives.
Mary believes the idea of charity is not simply to “donate”, but to “experience”, and to spread the seeds of love for a better future. This was what she and her team had in mind when they devised Moonwalkers 11 years ago. “We’re so excited to see Moonwalkers becoming a celebrated annual event, and highly encouraged by the ever-increasing number of participants. Their kindness in showing their readiness to undertake this challenge is a strong boost to Orbis' efforts to save the blind,” she says. “There are no old roads to new directions,” Mary adds. “If you do what you always did, you get what you always got. I keep reminding myself not to allow yesterday's success to lull me into today's complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure.”
‘Whole-person’ approach sharpens life skills
“Open your eyes, apply your heart, and you will see the real beauty of life” is the principle Mary learned from her student days at Lingnan, one she practises at Orbis. Despite having worked there a long time, she still regards herself as a “newborn baby”. This enables her to feel the world in her heart and keep rolling out fresh ideas. “Always develop a passion for what you are doing. If you do, you will never cease to grow,” she says. Thanks to the general education Mary received at Lingnan in the 80s, the forerunner to today’s liberal arts education.
As Hong Kong’s only government-funded liberal arts university, Lingnan is committed to providing quality education distinguished by the best liberal arts traditions. It adopts a whole-person approach, enabling students to think, judge, care and, ultimately, act responsibly in the changing circumstances facing Hong Kong, the region and the world. Aimed at transforming students’ lives and career development, the initiative focuses on an interdisciplinary curriculum, small-class teaching, vibrant campus and hostel life, rich international exposure, and service-learning.
Mary says Lingnan adopts a student-oriented teaching and learning approach, emphasising a close faculty-student relationship. She remembers the interactive learning modes during small-class tutorials that motivated students to strive for higher levels of intellectual discourse, analytical thinking, team spirit, and independent research capability. Mary’s story proves the concept that education’s function is teaching students to think intensively and critically. Intelligence plus character is the true goal of education.