Every year in late August or early September, a remarkable group of young men and women visit the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. They are candidates for the scholarships that the annual FCC Charity Ball supports.
We try to make the process as relaxed as possible. It is an opportunity for the scholarship committee to meet the students, not grill them. Still, from their perspective it must be a little bit intimidating. The candidates address a group of adult strangers, mostly in what is their second or third language – English. If I had to do the same as a teenager, in my school-taught Spanish, I would have been a
Under these difficult circumstances the young men and women we meet with are extremely poised. It is an impressive display of grace under pressure, and a shame we cannot give scholarships to every single one of them.
The students are assessed according to need and academic achievement, with more weight given to the former. Their backgrounds are often humbling, and in qualifying for our consideration they have already surmounted obstacles that would defeat most people. The candidates come from households with little or no income, where a parent or parents is ill or incapacitated, or where there are no parents at all. In the last of these situations, students leaving the Po Leung Kuk and its excellent network of schools across Hong Kong live on their own in public housing flats. In their late teens they assume adult responsibilities – cooking, cleaning, looking after younger siblings – that most of us from far more privileged environments outsource to others.
Their dreams are varied. They want to be – to cite just a few of the aspirations of this year’s candidates – teachers, doctors, police officers, investment bankers, social workers and dentists. The scholarship funds this ball raises will help them achieve those dreams, while a younger generation of disadvantaged youth develop critical skills through the Language Training Programme.
Last year I noted that the FCC charity ball was celebrating its lucky 8th anniversary. And lucky it was, with a near-record result despite the most difficult of economic environments in the wake of the global financial crisis. This year we celebrate another lucky anniversary (in Cantonese the number 9 is a homonym for longevity) and we look forward to an even bigger 10th anniversary event in 2011.
The FCC is proud to be the organiser of this event. I would like to extend my thanks to the members of the organising committee who dedicate so much time and effort to the ball; our club staff; the Po Leung Kuk; and our diamond sponsors J.P. Morgan, Prosperity Holdings (HK), JMI, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, UBS, Chopard and Cathay Pacific. Have a great night.