Sylvia Wong

As a child, Sylvia Wong wondered how to relieve the poverty she encountered while traveling. Now she knows.

Sylvia Wong, Concern’s Community Engagement and Program Manager, started her journey as a traveler attuned to the world’s most sensitive issues.

Born in Hong Kong, at three she emigrated with her parents to Canada. Returning to Hong Kong for a visit at age 12, she encountered deep poverty for the first time. “I was very disturbed,” she says. Her parents warned her not to give beggars money, but she couldn’t stop thinking of the inequalities she’d seen.

This sensitivity stayed with her, coloring her teenage years. “When I was 14, I went with my school on a trip to Mexico and helped build a house and worked with street children,” she recalls. “I loved it.

Even my teacher said, ‘You are so good at this, Sylvia.’ For the first time, I felt alive.”

After graduating from high school in Canada, she went to Hungary for three weeks to work at a summer camp with Ukrainian children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. “Language was a barrier, but we communicated through music, skits, and dance,” she said. “It was a life-changing experience.”

After getting her Bachelors of Education in Canada, Sylvia went on to get a master’s degree in international educational development and taught for three years at the UN International School in New York City before joining Concern in October 2009. Now she works to enhance engagement with youth and other key audiences, raising Concern’s profile and ensuring high-quality implementation of its domestic education program and partnerships.

“Concern is a perfect fusion of my passions and interests,” she says. “I don’t want other people to feel helpless like I did.”

“No one gave me answers about why poverty exists and what you can do about it. I want people to be empowered. I want them to know there are many ways to be part of this work, and many ways to help.”

 

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