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photo of Mrs Clara Weatherall
2012 University Fellow
Mrs Clara Weatherall

Mrs Clara Weatherall, Chairman of the Keswick Foundation’s Board of Governors, is well-known for her abiding commitment to philanthropy. After graduating from the National School of Broadcasting in the U.K, Mrs Weatherall worked for the BBC in the U.K. and the BBC World Service in the Philippines. She also worked as a freelance anchor at Metro Radio for two years after moving to Hong Kong in 1991. She is married to Mr Percy Weatherall whose great uncle is the late Sir John Keswick, who founded the Keswick Foundation in Hong Kong and the Holywood Trust in the U.K. to provide financial support to individuals and organizations for worthwhile causes. 

Mrs Weatherall has devoted much time to social and community services. Before taking up the Chairmanship of the Keswick Foundation in 1997, she served, for ten years, as an Executive Committee Member of the Foundation. Mrs Weatherall also chairs the Holywood Trust in Dumfries, Scotland, whose aim is to help young people in the region move forward in their lives. She is also involved with Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres in the UK set up by Mrs Maggie Keswick Jencks to provide support for cancer patients, their families, carers and friends. She has been on the Main Board of Maggie’s since 2011 and has helped spearhead the development of Maggie’s Hong Kong. The first Maggie’s Centre outside the UK will open at Tuen Mun Hospital in March 2013.

Over the years, PolyU has benefited from Mrs Weatherall’s benevolence. Through the generous benefaction from the Keswick Foundation, Mrs Weatherall has supported the University’s initiatives in the Chinese mainland. These projects include the offering of a Master of Social Work (China) programme in collaboration with the Peking University and a Post-disaster Social Reconstruction programme with the Sichuan University, as well as the development of the PolyU-PekingU China Social Work Research Centre.

While living in Hong Kong, Mrs Weatherall has also provided guidance to various charities in the capacities of director, executive committee member and advisor. These organizations include the Society for AIDS Care, Make-A-Wish Hong Kong, Enlighten - Action for Epilepsy, Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care, and Mindset.

Chairman Yang, Council Members, President Tong and Honoured Guests, 

First of all, let me express my heartfelt thanks to The Hong Kong Polytechnic University for conferring upon me the honour of this Fellowship. I am both humbled and delighted.

Social work education received little attention in the Chinese mainland until the 1990s, when social work educators from Hong Kong started to get involved, albeit in a cautious manner. One of them suggested that the Keswick Foundation could help.  I was excited but nervous, and I realized we needed a partner that we could trust.

In 1994, the Keswick Foundation gave a one-off grant to the Asian and Pacific Association for Social Work Education to organize a conference and an intensive workshop for Chinese social work educators. The conference organiser was Professor Angelina Yuen, the then team leader in PolyU’s Department of Applied Social Studies (now Department of Applied Social Sciences). Thus began an incredible partnership and an extraordinary journey.

In 2000, the Keswick Foundation started to fund PolyU’s Master of Social Work (China) programme, run jointly with Peking University. The course was heavily over-subscribed, with all applicants being senior academics in social work who had never previously taught the subject in a practical sense. Twelve years on, we are now funding the 6th and 7th cohorts and by 2013 we will have about 200 graduates, many of whom have told me that the programme has changed their lives.

When Sichuan experienced the calamitous earthquake in 2008, our students were the first in and the last out. Post-disaster projects run jointly by PolyU and Sichuan University made a huge impact on those affected and our students’ efforts were greatly appreciated. I went to see our projects in Chengdu in 2010 and was truly humbled by the experience.

The Keswick Foundation has also funded the China Association of Social Work Education (CASWE) based at Peking University, and again the PolyU has been instrumental in this.

For the past ten years, CASWE has been the driving force in the Chinese government’s policy on social work education. It has published journals, hosted conferences across China and made sure that the benchmark of social work education remains at the very high standard set by PolyU. 

I am gratified to hear that most social work educators and social workers in the Chinese mainland have benefitted directly or indirectly from the Keswick Foundation. For this, I would like to thank Angie and my friends in the Department of Applied Social Sciences, as they have done a great deal for social work education in China.

Thank you.

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