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  • Writer's pictureRonjake Corpuz

"The 30th Anniversary of the Nesbitt Centre – memories are made of this!" by David Nesbitt

It was 1993, when our daughter Laurie was leaving the Jockey Club Sarah Roe School (JCSRS) and had virtually nowhere to go to continue developing. My wife Wendy and I spoke with some working friends, to see if there might be employment opportunities for Laurie, but she would require training and support – which was not available.

So we decided, with some parents of the JCSRS, to see if there was an alternative. We were very lucky to have John Allen, a solicitor, who suggested we set up a charitable Trust. Another parent, Mark Bilger, along with Wendy and myself wrote to the HK Government (Governor Patten at the time) for support and subvention. In a few months, the Head of Social Welfare (Ian Strachan) replied to us and funded a new Centre – then called the Hong Kong Vocational Centre. The Centre went from strength to strength, with strong leadership, and five Learners over the years became 50 Learners.


What Wendy and I have learned is that the phrases “community engagement” and “quality of life” can be strong incentives to assist those with learning and physical disabilities to progress, enjoy themselves, and be included in the life of a city. We watched our own daughter and friends from the Centre begin to travel independently, be stimulated in a Centre with individual programs, to be included in soccer at the Football Club, and sail at Sailability (thank you, Kay and Mike Rawbone!).


Those that were able had supported work opportunities in the community, and those that were less able had yoga, singing and personal attention from outside experts and Facilitators within the Centre.


The Board renamed the HKVC 15 years ago as ‘The Nesbitt Centre’, which created a new brand for fund-raising and assisted an ongoing partnership with the Social Welfare Department. But more importantly, 22 years ago, a passionate young man named Surinder Punjya joined the Centre as a Facilitator and became the key catalyst to building our Social Enterprises (SE). Readers will be most interested to know that the Centre now manages six SE’s, from Cafe8 on the waterfront to a new coffee shop for the SPCA near the airport. Our SE’s now employ over 20 able-bodied and over 30 SEN adults, for which we are very proud, and most thankful to Surinder for being the driver to build these new enterprises.


So – memories! Wendy and I wish to thank all those that helped build the Centre to its current stage in Hong Kong, and in particular staff and our ED, Surinder. We also advise our readers that the Centre created Craftables, for those more challenged, who now design and sell beautiful candles, coasters and trays.


Thirty years in the making, and now in 2023, we are just beginning to make a new quality of life and community engagement for a significant group of Special Needs adults. May the Centre long continue!



- David Nesbitt


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