Dr. Joseph Wong’s Speech

Thanks so much for inviting me to this wonderful event and to speak to you about my experience in founding Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the Golden Age Village for the Elderly and the organizers for your vision and hard work to create a language and culture appropriate for the seniors in your community.  No question that this is a much needed facility to serve those who have come before us and have contributed their life-long effort to build up this community and laid the foundation for us today.

To bring joy and happiness to them is not only a moral obligation for our generation, but something that we have to demonstrate to our children that this core value is one of the most important virtues in every family and community: Filial Piety.

There is no question that this is a monumental task, both financially and the length of time that it requires for completion.

This is the aspiration and dream of the whole community.  Only through the united effort of the entire community that this huge endeavour will have a chance to succeed.

I want to sum up the requirements of a successful campaign to create something as significant as what you are trying to achieve:

  • Vision and planning your mission;
  • Understanding of your community: the aspirations and the needs, and changes in demographics;
  • A dedicated group of individuals who have the credibility and trust of the community to make things happen;
  • Unrelenting effort to have the whole community embracing the vision and the strategic direction of the organization, through surveys and consultations;
  • Honesty, transparency, and accountability of the organization and the individuals behind the project;
  • Hard work and dedication, nothing can replace this;
  • Political connection, Making your DEMAND known, There is nothing more convincing and righteous than serving your community seniors in appropriate surroundings;
  • Do NOT accept lip service;
  • Relentless effort: expect failures and setbacks: Rome is not built in a day.
  • Despite the best of intentions and effort, there will be criticism and skepticism.  Don't waste time or energy: concentrate your energy and focus your effort towards your goal;
  • Getting there is half the job: running and maintaining the facility with excellent services and good financial and prudent management is crucial for continuing success;
  • Don't lose sight of the changing needs of the community: you have to change in order to continue to be relevant;
  • The priorities of the Yee Hong: to be the Provider of Choice and the Employer of Choice.
  • The journey building Yee Hong illustrates all these steps and processes and encounters.

We have grown to be the largest non-profit geriatric care centre in North America, providing care to tens of thousands of seniors every year in 4 centres in GTA, employing over 1200 people, and recognized by our seniors, their family members and our peers and the Ministry of Health, as among the best in the country.  

We spent seven years to build the first centre, convincing the government and the bureaucrats of the system that culture and language should be the most important consideration in serving seniors in ethnic communities, something as simple and logical as motherhood, took 5 years.

We did not accept NO as an answer.

If there is a will, there must be a way.

Our relentless effort in lobbying the government, for 5 years, resulted in the allocation of 660 nursing home bed licences to 11 communities in 1992.

In the first two years of founding of Yee Hong, from 1987 to 1989, we organized 49 fund-raising events, about one event every two weeks on the average, for 2 years in a row.

We were meeting 5 times a week, every week for a few years, in the basement of my home, often extending into wee hours of the night, or morning, because we could only meet after work.

We raised over C$100 million over the last 25 years to build the four centres.  We serve, in addition to Chinese Canadians, South Asian, Filipino, and Japanese Canadian seniors.  A good percentage of these donations came in small changes, a testament to the united effort of the whole community.

We were among the first to use the continuum model, i.e., serving all the seniors,  from the very healthy to the very frail, under one roof, offering community-based services such as social, recreational, medical, rehabilitational, day care and half-day services, congregate dining, meals on wheels, educational, etc., to residential services for the independent and those with supportive housing services, and nursing home for the frail who require support 24 hours a day. We have the largest number of beds for people with Alzheimer and dementia diseases, and many innovative programs and services for seniors.

We have detailed surveys regularly to monitor the quality of our services, and feedbacks from seniors and their family members to help make improvements in the ways we serve our seniors.  The relationship between the management and front-line staff is courteous and transparent, with a set of clear guidelines to govern our behaviour and foster mutual respect and open communication.

Not only volunteers, but also our staff, treat our work not as only a job, but a commitment to good services, a pride we all share in creating a loving environment for seniors who call Yee Hong their home.

It is an honour for me to share our experience with you.  I know you will succeed, but I also know that you will have to work very hard and diligently to make it happen.  I know you will not regret it, as I have enjoyed every moment of my last 28 years in serving Yee Hong.  I cannot explain to you the reward that I receive, the sense of fulfilment, and the joy I have witnessing the smiles on the faces of the seniors that we serve. 

I have received many times over what I have given.

Joseph Wong