Two years ago To Chung left his lucrative investment banking career to pursue a higher cause. He joined the Chi Heng Foundation full-time to help Aids orphans in China. In Hong Kong, he has been a front man fighting for more recognition for gays and lesbians in the media, legislation and even the Catholic Church. He was one of the gay representatives who recently attended the first meeting with the head of the church in Hong Kong, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. Mr To will be recognised for his work next month when he is named one of this year's 10 Outstanding Young Persons. He will become the first openly gay person to win the prestigious award, say those in the gay community. 'I think he has shown perfectly that being openly gay should not impact on one's career,' said Roddy Shaw Kwok-wah, chairman of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities. 'I think that's very important because there are still a lot of gays and lesbians in the closet in Hong Kong.' Though Mr To has always been open about his sexual orientation, he was taken aback when award judges asked whether he was gay. 'I was a bit concerned because the judges might be conservative,' he said. 'There are a lot of people in society who think homosexuals are perverts and should not be recognised.' Lo Ka-shui, deputy chairman and managing director of Great Eagle Holdings, who served as a judge, said the question was asked to learn more about Mr To. 'I think the judge wanted to know his background, to understand his motivation,' Mr Lo said. 'I was really impressed he left everything behind to put all his time in this organisation. I think that's very touching.' Mr To, a native of Hong Kong, migrated to San Francisco with his family in 1982. His first encounter with Aids was the death of a high school teacher. More than 10 of his close friends have died. After graduating from Columbia University with a business degree and from Harvard University with a masters degree in East Asian studies, Mr To began his investment banking career. His job brought him back to Hong Kong in 1995. Three years later, he founded Chi Heng with two friends. Mr To found that his full-time job as vice-president of a major investment bank held him back from his work with Chi Heng. In 2001, he joined as full-time chairman, a non-paying position, and has lived off his savings since. Chi Heng now sponsors the education of 700 children in eight villages in central China whose parents are dying or died of Aids. Funding comes from private donations and the UN. He also educates the public about Aids prevention. The organisation started the biannual Tongzhi Media Awards to recognise journalists who write stories about the gay community. Mr To, who would only say that he is in the mid-30s, said public awareness had improved for gays and lesbians.