Mr. Joseph Chua (Co-Founder / Director (Chairman))
My journey and experiences in the past 20 years seem to pass with a blink of an eye, and yet I still feel exuberated and deeply touched whenever I recall those moments. They show me that with Love, miracles happen.
After graduating from the university in Canada, I worked and settled there before returning to my birthplace Hong Kong. Back then, Hong Kong was a vibrant city and thriving. With my overseas credentials, I landed a prestigious job without much difficulty. I was fortunate to be one of the consultants to pioneer the retirement scheme for the Hong Kong Government. I then worked as a senior management team in a multinational company. While I was grateful for the smooth progress in my career, I was unfulfilled and thought that was not my mission in coming back to Hong Kong. As the Bible says, “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” There was an urge for me to explore further.
My breakthrough happened when I visited my sister, Christina, in the U.S. back in 1992. An unexpected, inspirational calling smote us both simultaneously. Shortly after we decided to quit our job at the turn of the millennium, leaving our comfort zone in North America, and return to Hong Kong to start such a lifetime mission. Referring to the defining moment back in 1992, Christina and I decided to begin our journey by helping orphans regain parental care and love. We founded The CEO Foundation. Our vision was to shed the light of LOVE with fundamental core values for future generations.
In 2001, despite the little knowledge we had about orphans in Mainland China, we traveled there to learn and understand. Through the help of friends, we managed to visit children’s welfare institutes in Beijing and Shanghai, both of which were reasonably open to the public and welcomed external support. We believe all children, including orphans, need parental tender-loving care and should all have a family as they grow. Back then, adoption or foster care was an alien concept in Mainland China. Even if there were isolated cases, only for overseas adoptions, the process was extremely complicated. Besides, I believed it was preferable to handle the “orphan” issues locally due to potential cultural shock, loss of ethnic identity, and confusion for the children. Hence, we determined to help the welfare institution locally and created a unique way for the Chinese to care for abandoned children.
So, our next question was ‘How?’. At the time, a friend asked us, “Are you prepared to go a bit further?” We replied, “How much further?” “Around 6 to 7 hours from here by car, to Luoyang.” Our friend explained.
“Well, we come from North America to Hong Kong then here, so a 7-hour drive from Beijing to Luoyang is not far at all!” So off the road, we went to Luoyang with our friend. When we arrived Luoyang, we could not locate any children’s welfare institute. All passers-by seemed to have no clue about such institute and did not even know what an orphan was mean. Upon our explanation that orphans were children without parents and were taken care of at welfare institutes, the passers-by pointed us to a direction where they claimed there was always sound of crying children. As we walked down the path, we saw a closed gate and statue of a female cradling a child. We knew we had found the right place. We met Mr. Pei, the Director of Luoyang Children Welfare Institute (LYCWI), and learned about their challenges and needs. LYCWI carried a heavy load of hosting around 400 children in a 6-storey building, many of whom suffered from illnesses like cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome, or disabilities at various levels. When asked if he had ever come across the idea of the foster care system, Mr. Pei said they had just received notices to consider starting it in Luoyang. Then and then, we knew we had come to the right place. As Mr. Pei’s idea for the pending project was not about fostering in local nuclear families, we shared and recommended our foster care vision, i.e., to have the children cared for and nurtured by foster families in local villages. After discussion and negotiations, the uniquely localized Family Anew (FA) Foster Care Program was born.
The FA Foster Care Program kicked off with 11 participating orphaned children with moderately-severe disabilities. We placed these children in ordinary families that were primarily local farmers. CEO brought in human resources and subsidies to ensure the foster families see that these children’s lives were as precious as other children. Our goal was to encourage the foster families to treasure their new members so that the orphans could genuinely regain a true family. Against all odds, we established a local CEO team in Luoyang. After getting married, I chose to settle in Luoyang and brought my wife and young children to stay focused in the frontline.
As we witnessed the thriving of these underprivileged children in families, we felt fulfilled with the efforts made. I can recall a girl with critical health conditions eventually became healthy again with not merely medical treatment but, most importantly, a dose of tender loving care from her foster parents. The life-changing story of this girl is a vivid demonstration that with faith and love, miracles happen. Results affirmed the CEO’s mission to care for abandoned disabled orphans.
The FA Foster Care Program had a humble start with 11 children, and at its peak, it helped 200-plus children stay in foster families, equivalent to more than half of the total orphaned children in LYCWI. These children experienced love and care in families like all other children. By helping many unfortunate youngsters in the society, FA Program also helped immensely to relieve the burden of the LYCWI.
As the children continued to thrive in their foster families, so did the Program. After that, we launched many related projects to provide continual support to those families and children. Areas include homeschooling, foster parents’ support group, counseling, special education, and visits from experts and relevant organizations. Realizing the human resources needs for further development of the Program, we established collaborations with the social work faculty in local universities. That had brought about the early stage of our next major Program, namely, the FA Apprenticeship Program, which gave hands-on training experiences to the undergraduates. It also provided the students a practical platform to contribute to the society in a much-needed area.
In 2012, we extended the FA Apprenticeship Program to the Luoning Children Welfare Institute (LNCWI), a national-level poverty-stricken county. My younger sister, Catherine, also joined forces with our team and has played a significant role in the CEO’s development.
For the last few years, we witnessed the booming of the Chinese economy. Many parents in China strive for the best educational opportunities for their children. To ensure giving equal opportunities to those under the poverty line to excel academically, we established our Training Centre at the LNCWI to extend the FA Apprenticeship Program to benefit more young people. Later then we expanded the opportunities broadly into schools in nearby villages.
The experiences truly blessed me in the last 20 years: I witnessed numerous miracles and came in touch with people from all walks of life: the underprivileged in welfare institutes, experts in universities, and children in villages. The CEO Foundation treasures the lives of all people, and we develop projects that dovetail with the needs of the recipients and let them sparkle. We started the journey when China relied heavily on outside resources and assistance. However, with the promising economic growth and the comprehensive development of the Social Welfare system in China, the need for external support has reduced. We were honored to contribute through our programs during those challenging years for the Mainland. We are more proud of the children who could eventually stand on their feet and contribute to the country are glad that the programs have positively impacted the young generation. All of those solidified our conviction through CEO over the last two decades.
I count my blessings for all the adventurous years at CEO. It has been more than a rewarding journey full of precious moments from others and much benefited my personal growth. A huge “THANK YOU” to all those who vested their faith and support in us and CEO, brightening my life with colorful memories. Again, I am much indebted to my lovely wife, endearing children, and beloved family for their unconditional and unfailing support. Twenty years later, we are ready to embark on new endeavors in Hong Kong with a unique history. We will continue to shine, amidst all challenges, with LOVE and anticipate an even brighter and more glorious future!