Civil Service Newsletter June 2015 Issus No.93
Pensioners' Corner
   
  Retirement with a Mission
 
  Pensioners’ outing
 
  Pension increase 2015
   
 
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Retirement with a Mission
Civil Service Newsletter Editorial Board
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MRS Patricia Chu Yeung Pak-yu, former Deputy Director of Social Welfare, has dedicated her life, professionally and privately, to one simple cause: caring for others. Since retiring from the department in 2002 after 34 years of service, Mrs Chu has continued her work with volunteer services caring for cancer victims and their families as well as family welfare.
 
 
 
Former Deputy Director of Social Welfare, Mrs Patricia Chu Yeung Pak-yu, is dedicated to serving the community after retirement.
Former Deputy Director of Social Welfare, Mrs Patricia Chu Yeung Pak-yu, is dedicated to serving the community after retirement.

 

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Mrs Chu was awarded the Bronze Bauhinia Star by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2000 and the Rotary Centennial Service Award of Professional Excellence by the Rotary International District 3450 in 2005 in recognition of her contributions to the social welfare field and the social work profession.

Mrs Chu believes the secret to retirement is striking the right balance between an active lifestyle in volunteer work helping others and spending time with family and friends. This, she said, would keep her young at heart.

Her activities are wide-ranging. She is the Chairperson of the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society (HKACS), the Consortium of Institutes on Family in the Asian Region (CIFA) and the Asian Academy of Family Therapy (AAFT), and she is also a member of the Family Council of the Government. She has also served as the Chairperson of the Social Workers Registration Board, and at one stage was the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission. Yet, despite this heavy schedule of community service, she still finds time to spend with her family and friends, play with her two grandchildren every week and travel a lot.

Throughout her life, she has been involved in volunteer work. When she was in the Social Welfare Department (SWD), however, she made a conscious effort not to be involved with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in her pursuit of volunteer work in order to avoid potential conflict of interest with her official duties. Before retirement, she knew she would become a full time volunteer “to do things that I believe to be important”.

“People who know that actually come to me every day asking if I could help out with this and that, and I have to say no! Before I retired, I remember an Australian consultant told me that I must learn how to say no sometimes, because if you repeatedly say yes, your schedule would become even fuller and you would be unable to cope with it.”

“Today I know my schedule, my strengths and my experience, so I can concentrate my efforts on some organisations which I believe are important. They are the HKACS and the CIFA,” Mrs Chu said.

 

Mrs Chu (second right) officiated at the opening of the Hong Kong Cancer Day in December 2013.
Mrs Chu (second right) officiated at the opening of the Hong Kong Cancer Day in December 2013.

 

Cancer impacts on family

“I am learning all the time,” Mrs Chu said. She admits that she knew very little about cancer when she was with the SWD. However, as a trained social worker, she has a deep understanding of the impact of cancer on the family.

“In the Hong Kong setting, emphasis has always been on the treatment and rehabilitation of cancer patients. But some people may not realise that there is a reciprocal process between a cancer patient and his or her family. The cancer patient impacts on the family, and vice versa. This reciprocal relationship is something we have to deal with, so the HKACS has introduced a Walking-Hand-in-Hand Cancer Family Support Project (the Project) to give support to patients and their families,” she said.

“It is very hard for both the patients and their families to cope with the onset of the diagnosis of a cancer,” Mrs Chu added. Speaking from her experiences with cancer patients, Mrs Chu said she finds that the patients are greatly upset and do not know what to do upon knowing the bad news, irrespective of their education background and social status and whether or not they are persons of strong will. Their families are also shocked. Mrs Chu explained that it is because the patients know little about the process of cancer treatment, from suspicion of illness, diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation, relapse or even death. This whole process has a psychosocial impact on the family and the individual.

To help with this psychosocial impact, the Project has a team of experienced nurses and social workers. They are assisted by a group of volunteer cancer survivors who have gone through many of the stages of cancer and know the difficulties, feelings and emotions of victims and their families. The team provides all-round services including counselling and financial support.

 

Mrs Chu (left) joined a press conference which released the findings of the evaluation study on the Walking Hand-in-Hand Cancer Family Support Project.
Mrs Chu (left) joined a press conference which released the findings of the evaluation study on the Walking Hand-in-Hand Cancer Family Support Project.

 

Sourcing funds

For all NGOs, seeking funds is difficult and competitive. But for the HKACS, there has been a reasonable amount of public sympathy and support. The Jessie and Thomas Tam Charitable Foundation, for example, gave $5 million to start the Project in 2011. This has been followed with a $17.46 million donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club to develop more community-based approach services including outreach services for patients and their families so that they do not have to travel a long way from home to the HKACS Jockey Club Cancer Rehabilitation Centre in Wong Chuk Hang. Mrs Chu said, “Hong Kong is a caring society indeed!” Through a concerted publicity drive using the media, there has been a steady flow of donations. Other funding comes from charity events such as the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, the Kwoon Chung Golden Jubilee Lantau Walk and charity concerts and dinners.

 

Mrs Chu ran for the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2014 Leaders Cup to raise funds for the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society.
Mrs Chu ran for the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2014 Leaders Cup to raise funds for the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society.
   
Mrs Chu (middle) represented the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society to receive a donation from the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2015.
Mrs Chu (middle) represented the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society to receive a donation from the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2015.

 

Family togetherness

Another significant part of Mrs Chu’s so-called “retirement” is her devotion to the CIFA and the AAFT in Hong Kong. Before these came into being, she was a lecturer at the HKU Family Institute, specially set up by the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Hong Kong to promote family relations. She felt that there was a need to help people understand how the family relates to the society.

“At that time, we began to think about organising conferences and talking about how we could do better in the region. We began by setting up this Consortium, which was of a type not in existence anywhere in Asia but already common in other parts of the world, including Europe and the United States. We gathered a group of people – social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, academics and researchers – who were interested in promoting family work and family well-being to get the project going.”

Currently the Consortium has representatives from eight countries and regions – Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Macau – holding Regional Symposiums in various places on a bi-yearly basis, organising the Asian Award for Advancing Family Well-Being (3A Project) and conducting cross-country researches. One of these studies was to identify challenges faced by families in the region. An interesting finding was that families in the Asian region, especially in the developed countries, faced the biggest challenges of striking a balance between work and family, apart from parenting.

 

Mrs Chu (left) officiated at the charity dinner to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society.
Mrs Chu (left) officiated at the charity dinner to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society.

 

She recalled that last year marked the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family. It offered an opportunity for all to reflect on the role of families in social development, review challenges faced by families worldwide, familiarise themselves with recent policy changes, share practice wisdom and recommend solutions. It also had a special meaning for Mrs Chu as she reflected on her journey in the past two decades, as a professional social worker, civil servant and volunteer, in the development of family work. She is particularly excited and encouraged by the recognition given recently by the United Nations to the work of CIFA.

When Mrs Chu was the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2003 and 2004, she advocated the importance of work-life balance. “If you are unhappy at home and you bring that unhappiness to work, or if you are unhappy in your workplace with a lot of pressure and you bring it back to home, then it will affect both sides.”

“So how can you strike this balance? It is not only the workers but also the employers who have to understand. If organisations introduce family-friendly policies and practices, they will have a happier workforce. The productivity will in turn be enhanced and the absenteeism reduced. Some big firms have been doing this in fulfilment of their corporate social responsibility. It is a win-win situation for everyone,” Mrs Chu said.

“The Family Council has been advocating this policy by introducing the Family Friendly Employers Award Scheme since 2011 to promote the idea of a work-life balance. The response from the various corporations and organisations with family-friendly policies at the workplace is encouraging. Interestingly, many have implemented innovative ideas such as flexible hours and work at home. For example, my daughter, when she was expecting twins and could not go to work, her employer was very understanding and allowed her to work at home on her computer,” Mrs Chu said.

 

Mrs Chu (second right) took picture with the plenary speakers from Hong Kong, Philippines and Singapore at the 3rd Regional Symposium at the National University of Singapore in December 2012.
Mrs Chu (second right) took picture with the plenary speakers from Hong Kong, Philippines and Singapore at the 3rd Regional Symposium at the National University of Singapore in December 2012.

 

Mrs Chu (left) and her husband visited the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway.
Mrs Chu (left) and her husband visited the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway.

 

Marathon of life

Mrs Chu gave sound advice to potential retirees based on her own experiences. At her farewell retirement party, she told her colleagues, “I am not actually retiring. I am going through a different course of life.”

She told her colleagues not to stay at home nor withdraw from society. “Connecting with others is important. Don’t wait for people to come to you. You have to reach out to them because if you don’t go out, people will say perhaps you don’t want to see them. But if you do, you will meet a lot of old acquaintances and make new friends,” she said.

Mrs Chu also suggested doing volunteer service. “Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Then you feel happy. Some people will not do what I do because they think that it is not retirement. I am not staying in 2002 but 2015, so I am continually keeping myself alert and updated. I find myself happy and healthy, and keep contributing to society as a retired person. That is life fulfilment, which is more important than everything else,” Mrs Chu concluded.

 

Mrs Chu (left) and her husband visited the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.
Mrs Chu (left) and her husband visited the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.