[Alia Eyres, Class of 1995] Colleagues and friends were surprised when Alia Eyres quit her job as a corporate lawyer to work for Mother's Choice, the charity working with single mothers and crisis pregnancies. It seems a lot to give up considering the radical change in salary and nature of work. But Eyres, who has also practised in the United States, says, 'It's no sacrifice. I am grateful that I got to work for something that I am passionate about.' In taking over as the chief executive of Mother's Choice last month, Eyres isn't just fulfilling a calling, but also carrying on a family legacy - her mother Phyllis Marwah is among its founders. Eyres was nine years old when her parents, Phyllis and Ranjan Marwah, along with an American couple, Gary and Helen Stephens, launched the organisation in 1987. 'Everybody was a volunteer then. They didn't know what they got themselves into. When we first got the building [on Bowen Roadl], it was full of rubbish and there were no windows. I came in after school every day to help pick up rubbish, clean and paint,' she says. At the time, Marwah, 64, had a brood of six (which later swelled to seven) and all the children pitched in to turn the site - former military barracks which had been vacant for 16 years - into usable quarters. The founders' mission was spurred on by news reports of a growing number of teenage girls going to the mainland for late-term abortions. 'We found out that all the places that pregnant girls could go to in Hong Kong then were juvenile delinquency centres. They treated them as if they had committed a crime. We wanted to provide a loving home for them until they gave birth, and help them get back into society [after delivery],' says Marwah. 'Many girls who come [to us] are so desperate they just want to commit suicide. We have three options for them - terminate the pregnancy, give birth and give up the baby for adoption, or give birth and be a teenage mother. All three options are painful.' Eyres says her parents' compassion for the underprivileged has rubbed off on her. 'They are big believers in anonymous giving. When I was young, there was a family who was struggling and needed a car. My parents gave them ours, but they didn't want us to tell anybody. I watched them getting involved in many acts of generosity as I grew up.' They also set an example in their interactions with the teenage girls who came to Mother's Choice. 'My mother taught me when I was young to treat the women with respect and kindness. Many of them are full of shame when they come here. My mum said that I should look them in the eye, ask how they are doing and treat them like family members,' she says. 'To my mum, the most important character trait is kindness. Bringing home a bad report card was OK. But if my teacher had told her I was not kind to other students, she would have been disappointed. My mother is the kindest person I know.' After becoming a mother herself 17 months ago, Eyres aims to adopt a similar approach to parenting. 'She allowed us to do what we wanted. For my son, I won't worry so much about academic success, as more focus should be put on character.' On her part, Marwah, whose parents were missionaries, is grateful that her children have embraced the spirit of giving. 'Every one of my children is involved in charity in some way,' she says. One daughter was inspired to take up medicine; another works for an NGO; one son aims to work in human rights after his law studies in London; and another, who is a barrister, helps her with work on improving laws to protect children. Eyres, her eldest child, showed signs early on that she might devote herself to charity work. 'Three weeks before she was to leave for college [in the US], she said she wanted to do volunteer work. So she delayed her first two years [of study] and went to Venezuela to help street kids,' Marwah says. 'I know her heart is the same as mine. That she [gave up law for Mother's Choice] did not surprise me.' Despite growing up with the charity, Eyres doesn't owe the appointment to her parents' connections. She had to undergo a rigorous screening process, like all the other candidates, she says. 'They hired headhunters to find candidates. My mum took herself out of the screening process. I applied in September and did not know until March that I got it. I was so nervous I wouldn't get the job.' Eyres reckons her corporate experience should be an asset in steering the development of Mother's Choice. 'I believe I can help smooth the structure of the organisation and bring in clear rules. I want to boost our sex education work and fund-raising drives, so that we can reach more girls and children. There's a huge unmet need from pregnant girls. I plan to move the counselling centre for pregnant girls from Tsim Sha Tsui to Kwun Tong, to be nearer those from the lower socio-economic backgrounds.' Marwah reckons the charity is in good hands. 'Alia never complains and just gets the work done. She has been like that since she was born,' says Marwah, who serves on the board of the organisation. 'I know her goals [at Mother's Choice] are my goals. We have different strengths. I'm not good at finance and fund-raising, but I am good at human interaction, speaking, and talking people around. I will always be there to support her.' Growing up with a tiger mum can be frustrating, but local internet pioneer Pindar Wong wouldn't have it any other way. His mother, former health secretary Elizabeth 'Libby' Wong Chien Chi-lien, taught her two children, Pindar and his sister Jencia, to never rest on their laurels, and he reckons it gave him an edge when setting up Hong Kong Supernet, the city's first commercial internet service provider. She instituted rules that pushed the children to use their minds, he says. For instance, he could only play video games that he wrote the code for. 'If you didn't know the maths, you had to figure it out. If you didn't know the computer language, you had to learn it. My mum's precondition to me before buying a computer was to first learn to touch type,' he says. 'We don't celebrate birthdays in our family, or things that come naturally. My mother recognises conscious achievements. We set a goal and work towards it. Once that goal is achieved, we move onto another one.' Describing his mother as the original tiger mum, Wong recalls how upset he had been at his mother's cool response to his university results. Although he was awarded first-class honours for his computer science degree from Imperial College London, the first thing she told him when he called home to ask about his results was, 'You could have done better.' He got over the disappointment but it took him 20 years to understand his mother's intention. 'You can always do better is her message. I only know now because I am the father of two boys. As a father, I know how difficult it is to raise children to the level you think they should be. My boys love to play computer games but I adopt the same policy as my mum did. You have to use your imagination.' Libby Wong, 74, says she took pains to nurture independence in her children. 'I always tell them, 'The world is your oyster and you should pursue what you like and I will back you.' [Pindar] got the Sir Edward Youde Memorial Fund Scholarship to pursue a PhD in computer science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. But after a year, he decided to drop out to set up an internet [company]. There was no internet in Hong Kong then. Deep down, I was disappointed as I hoped he would get a doctorate. But I didn't object, as I wanted him to pursue his dreams.' Borrowing HK$3 million from the government, Pindar Wong set up Hong Kong Supernet with an American friend in 1993, laying the city's first links to the information superhighway. His mother has been his role model, says Wong, who now runs his own internet consultancy. 'Her greatest lesson was the example she set. When I set up the internet service, I was trailblazing with no precedent to follow. I understood what went through her mind when she helped found the Hospital Authority and the Academy for Performing Arts. All you have to guide you is your conscience, ethics and the desire do the right thing.' Her resilience in overcoming obstacles has also been an inspiration. 'She is incredibly robust. When she first came to Hong Kong [from Shanghai, at the age of 11], she didn't speak any English or Cantonese and she overcame that. Even today, she is writing another book while most people her age are enjoying retirement.' Libby Wong was an English teacher before joining the government in 1969, and she has passed on her passion for educating young people to her son. 'We greatly value education in our household. My grandfather pushed a cart for a living. My father is an architect. I push buttons now for a living. That progress is entirely due to education,' Pindar Wong says. That's why he helped develop a creative commons copyright licensing scheme in Hong Kong in 2008. First introduced in the US in 2001, creative commons licensing allows writers, artists and educators to share their knowledge or creative efforts while retaining certain rights to the work. 'Currently, we have 450 licences here. One of my focuses is to create open educational material for liberal studies, which is a compulsory part of the senior secondary curriculum.' You can't write textbooks on something that is in flux, such as current affairs, he says, which is why he persuaded RTHK to create archives using creative commons licences, so that teachers can use the resources for their liberal studies programme. This platform allows educators to freely distribute material which they can build on. When Joanna Hotung set up the Kids' Gallery creative learning centre 15 years ago, she was spurred by the lack of activities for her daughters, Sophia and Natasha. 'In the United States, my parents encouraged me to do lots of extra-curricular activities like ballet, piano, and speech and drama. But there wasn't much for kids to do in Hong Kong 15 years ago. So I left my management consultancy job to open the gallery,' she says. Hotung's decision undoubtedly livened up the girls' growing years. And in tapping their ideas for the venture, she has built it into a franchise operation with 3,000 students around the globe, and passed on her interest the arts and business nous to Sophia, now 17. 'They joined the activities from day one. When they were younger, I saw how they responded to the classes. As they grew older, they gave me ideas [on how to improve the programmes]. Sophia is very good at computers and often helps out with the marketing department, on social media and website design work. 'And because she's young, she tells my staff what the latest things are that they don't know about.' Sophia, who will start her A-level studies at Harrow International School in September, takes particular pride in launching a social media campaign last year for a Kids Gallery talent show called Star Factor. 'I went to the marketing people, who wanted me to make a website for people to vote in. But I told them we should use Facebook more as all the kids are on it now. Eventually, I set up the website and a Facebook page, and put lots of videos on YouTube so that people can make comments.' However, Hotung is careful to encourage her daughter to use her judgment. 'Whenever she gives me her ideas, I tell her to look at all the nitty-gritty details, like how much it will cost, how many people will be needed and how long it will take.' Sophia has also caught her mother's zeal for good causes, particularly the Hong Kong Juvenile Diabetes Association charity. Hotung set it up in 2001 with two prominent doctors, after Natasha was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of seven, and Sophia has been an enthusiastic volunteer, helping to organise raffle sales and with the paperwork. Sophia appreciates the valuable life lessons she gets from being able to join in the brainstorming and planning discussions at Kids Gallery. 'If they have big meetings at the gallery, I always ask whether I can come. They let me come and give ideas,' she says. Growing up around Kids Gallery undoubtedly nurtured her artistic interest. 'Frequent exposure to the arts since childhood will make you more creative and you are more likely to think outside the box. I want to become a medical researcher and study how art affects child development. There are some studies which say that children who do art every day have a bigger prefrontal cortex. I want to understand the science of how Kids' Gallery works.'