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Feeding a desire for education

By Zhou Wenting | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-20 08:15

Before age 27, To Chung was vice-president of a Wall Street investment bank, but latterly his life has been dominated by a desire to help children from families affected by HIV and AIDS.

The turning point came when To was appointed to the bank's Hong Kong office to identify investment opportunities in rural China.

During his trips to the interior, he visited villages ravaged by the illnesses.

"I never thought people in such a small place could suffer such painful misery. Almost every family had people who were HIV-positive, and everyone-from seniors to children-suffered from poverty, disease and discrimination," said To, who was born in Hong Kong, but emigrated to the United States as a teenager.

The conditions he encountered in the rural areas led to many sleepless nights, prompting him to take action.

He quit his job and founded the Chi Heng foundation in 2002 to fund education and provide living expenses for young people with at least one parent who had died of AIDS.

Around 60 percent of the beneficiaries have been admitted to universities, while others have become mechanical engineers, nurses and chefs, To said: "I've been educating our AIDS orphans to work hard at school and college to develop skill sets and not be a burden on society. We should live and work with dignity."

During the current academic year, the foundation is supporting more than 9,000 students, but the biggest difficulty it faces is raising more money as the number of students rises and they move up through the grades.

"The average cost per child has increased dramatically in the past few years. Supporting a student in primary and secondary school is very different from helping a student at university," he said.

Although he spends about 30 percent of his time raising funds, To would prefer to spend the majority of his time providing direct services at the cafe.

"People won't give you money just because you give money to others, and people will only give you money because you're providing a good program," he said.

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