Dee Dee Chan Of The Seal Of Love Charity On Using The Power Of Education To Uplift Families
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.
Former New York investment banker Dee Dee Chan’s entire outlook changed after the 2008 financial crisis. “I saw how the web we wove as an industry brought down the global economy,” Chan says. “It made me think, ‘Is this what I want to be doing forever?’” Chan worked in finance for six years, but her family’s roots are in the hotel industry: her grandfather Chan Chak-fu built one of the first five-star hotels in Hong Kong—the now-closed Ambassador—as well as The Park Lane Hong Kong in Causeway Bay.
However, the financial crash sparked an internal reckoning for the family. “Is [our focus] just to keep making money?” Chan recalls asking. That’s when Seal of Love was born, founded by Chan and her father Lawrence Chan. The foundation, which has been running for 12 years, supports underprivileged people in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, with a focus on education.
We wanted Seal of Love to focus on education, which is the great equaliser. You can be born into challenging circumstances but with education you can still lift up yourself, your family and your entire village. We give degree scholarships to people in developing countries, so they can earn multiples of what they otherwise would. We partnered with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to create a global health programme. Undergraduate students think of solutions using tech and design to solve health problems around the world, such as ways to sanitise rainwater cheaply in places without running water.
Covid-19 threw a wrench into everyone’s plans—including ours, because a lot of our outreach relies on travelling with volunteers and in-person contact. So it was initially hard to figure out how to help. In the end, we focused on immediate relief, such as food packs, sanitisers, Sim cards and used iPads for kids studying at home.
I run workshops with women to foster financial literacy. Women don’t lack passion or leadership skills, but they sometimes lack the confidence to speak up until they’re completely sure of everything, yet men don’t tend to do that. In order to have your voice heard, your idea has to be financially sound. It’s hard for women to find somewhere for questions they might be too afraid to ask, so I provide a safe forum for them to ask these questions.
One focus I have going forward is mental wellness. In the first week of 2021, I’d already heard about four suicides. This issue isn’t new; it’s something I’ve seen many people close to me struggle with, yet unfortunately both worldwide and especially in Chinese culture, people don’t realise it’s an illness. If you’re hurting inside you’re expected to just suck it up; it’s shameful to ask for help; it’s a waste of money. I want to provide more affordable access to mental health intervention because it is expensive in Hong Kong and seen as a luxury product, but it shouldn’t be.
See other Gen.T honourees from the Philanthropy & Charity category of the Gen.T List.