Bringing joy to others – whether through music, helping with chores or just listening – has brought greater meaning to Henry Wong’s life.
When the inevitable pressures of work take their toll on Henry Wong FCPA, there is a fair chance you will find him playing badminton, singing, painting or cleaning. Hitting a shuttlecock is one means of beating stress for Wong, Bloomberg’s head of regional finance, Asia Pacific, while charity work gives him another way to unwind.
“Whether I help the elderly or underprivileged kids, I feel so good,” says the Hong Kong-based executive, who has been volunteering for 25 years.
Wong received his first taste of volunteering while living in Melbourne as a student in the 1990s. He drove Salvation Army trucks to deliver second-hand clothes to the poor for Christmas. After completing a Bachelor of Commerce in accounting and finance and econometrics at Monash University, he returned to Hong Kong and vowed to continue helping others.
“When you’re talking about charity work, it’s about your heart.”
After taking a financial controller job at GE, Wong participated in various volunteering projects and roles. He put this knowledge to good use setting up corporate volunteer teams when he moved into positions with Keycorp and then with Wells Fargo.
One of the defining moments of his volunteering work came in 2008, when Wong helped victims of the earthquake in Sichuan, China, which killed almost 70,000 people. During a number of trips to the area, Wong distributed items such as blankets and torches, and joined teams to help rebuild houses.
Wong and his fellow volunteers also provided emotional support for the earthquake victims. “Those families needed someone to talk to because they were so sad about losing a home or losing family members during the earthquake,” Wong recalls. “We could bring love to them.”
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Inspired by his charity work for other groups, Wong and some musician friends teamed up two years ago to establish their own charity foundation, Eternal Life Music, which recruits volunteer musicians to entertain the disadvantaged, especially the elderly. The idea stems from his observation that music can bring relief to people who are suffering.
“I love singing so much, and I can see when people at the [aged-care centres] hear some of the old songs from the 1970s and ’80s they are so happy, and it brings back old memories that are very important for them.” His favourite song? The Louis Armstrong classic, What a Wonderful World.
Now also contributing to Bloomberg’s range of community programs, Wong encourages others to enlist in the volunteering fold, even if they fear they lack the time.
“When you’re talking about charity work, it’s about your heart – your heart drives you to do volunteering and I can also confirm that charity work helps you live healthily.”
Henry Wong joined HOPE Worldwide, after moving back to Hong Kong from Australia in the late 1990s. HOPE is best known in Hong Kong for its Volunteers for Seniors Day, where helpers pitch in two weeks before Chinese New Year to help the elderly in public housing estates with tasks such as painting and cleaning. They also distribute essentials such as rice, oil, biscuits and dry noodles. “They have no-one to talk to, no money to spend,” Wong says. “When I see people smiling after the work we do, I feel I have value living in this world.”
Leading tax adviser was once a refugee. Now he gives back.