Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges is the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s chief executive officer. His organisation has been a supporter and sponsor of the Student of the Year Awards for the past three years. Why does he think it’s important to support schemes that benefit Hong Kong’s young people? We took the chance to ask him a few questions.
You’ve been part of the Jockey Club’s senior management team for almost 20 years and its leader for almost 10 years. What most impresses you about the Club?
I’m very fortunate to work for an organisation which dedicates itself to the betterment of Hong Kong. That impressed me the very first time I saw the Club’s name on hospitals, schools, universities, parks and recreation facilities right across Hong Kong. It really made me appreciate how the Club contributes to society.
Now, as the CEO, I have the opportunity to play a direct role. I’m really pleased that because of the Club’s strong business growth over the past eight years, we’ve been able to quadruple our charity donations from just over HK$1 billion in 2007/08 to HK$3.9 billion in 2015/16. Based on current projections, we expect that annual donations in the coming years will be similar to the past few years, that is between HK$3.6 billion and HK$3.9 billion.
With this longer-term commitment the Club can be more strategic in its planning and can enter into longer-term projects. We currently contribute across 10 areas: arts, culture and heritage; education and training; elderly services; emergency and poverty relief; environmental protection; family services; medical and health; rehabilitation services; sports and recreation; and youth development.
Out of these, the Club’s Charities Trust is currently focusing on four strategic areas: arts and culture, youth, elderly and sports.
I can’t go into detail on all of them, but I’m sure Young Post readers will be interested in what we are doing for youth. Young people do, after all, represent our future, so it’s important that they are sufficiently competitive and well-prepared to face the ever-growing challenges of the global community. That’s why we established the HK$500 million CLAP for Youth@JC programme, which aims to help youngsters identify their life and career goals. Around 200,000 young people will benefit.
Also, recognising that young people increasingly need technology skills, we’ve recently launched CoolThink@JC, which aims to equip upper primary students with basic coding capabilities to strengthen their computational thinking, as well as to empower them to become problem-solvers and creators in the digital world.
Another project is the Jockey Club Make a Difference (MaD) School, which runs workshops designed to encourage innovative, “out of the box” solutions to social issues. Each year it holds a forum where I enjoy interacting with young innovators and listening to their hopes and ideas. It always reminds me how lucky I am, not only to be part of the dialogue on Hong Kong’s future, but also to be able to contribute to it through the Jockey Club.
You were a keen footballer when you were young, and now you head one of the biggest sporting organisations in the world. Why is sport important for young people?
I am a great believer in the power of sport to build character, connect people and develop leadership skills. Through training and competition, people learn to be self-disciplined and results-oriented, constantly striving for improvement and learning how to overcome difficulties.
Sport brings many health benefits as well. This is why I strongly support the Club’s youth football initiatives under the Put Our Best Foot Forward scheme. Through advanced coaching, leadership and life skills training, we are encouraging youngsters to continuously develop themselves physically, mentally and socially.
The Club is also a strong supporter of equestrian sports, which have a lot to teach about teamwork – only here the team comprises horse and rider. In fact the very best riders have an incredibly strong bond with their horses, forged through hours of practice and competition.
There will be a great opportunity to see this teamwork in action later this month at the Longines Hong Kong Masters, a show-jumping competition featuring some of the world’s top horses and riders. The Club is supporting the event and we are sponsoring tickets for some students to attend. It should be an amazing experience and I hope it will inspire them to take up riding themselves, perhaps by joining a course at one of our Public Riding Schools.
Any words of advice for young people growing up in today’s Hong Kong?
I think being a young person anywhere, at any time, has its challenges as well as its opportunities. In fact it’s not only natural but right that one should ask questions about one’s future. If a young person came up to me and asked my advice, I would say: pursue what you’re passionate about and really like, be positive and never give up. This “can do” spirit, after all, is what has driven Hong Kong for so long and made it so successful.
What are you looking forward to most about this year’s Student of the Year Awards?
I’m really looking forward to meeting so many bright, talented and energetic students with so much potential. We have young people who are outstanding in the arts and sciences, in languages and in sport. We also have students who have contributed to the community, which I think is very important. We need to encourage more youngsters to engage with the community at this stage in their lives.
I’m also looking forward to meeting candidates for the two new awards this year – best improvement and best devotion to school. I’m sure there will be some very inspiring stories of students who’ve worked hard to improve themselves and contribute to the welfare of their school. Of course not everyone can be a winner, but even just by taking part, students will learn more about their capabilities and make use of their potential.
Moreover, by encouraging young people to take part in extra-curricular activities like the Student of the Year Awards, we want to encourage them to be confident and to develop their natural skills. Above all, we hope they will commit themselves to making a positive contribution to society in the years ahead.
The Student of the Year Awards are organised by Young Post in conjunction with the South China Morning Post and sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club with support from the Education Bureau.