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Lofty ideals – why we support adventurer Ada Tsang

Giving back to the community and investing in Hong Kong’s youth are key components of Boase Cohen & Collins’ sponsorship programmes, writes Senior Partner Colin Cohen.

Hong Kong, 19 October 2017: A legal professional sits through countless speeches, lectures, hearings and discussions in the course of a year. They vary in quality, usefulness and relevance. Some are highly entertaining, others interminably dull. Whatever the nature of such occasions, we accept them as part of our routine and simply carry on regardless.

But then, occasionally, we are treated to a presentation that is so different or stirring or uplifting that we are genuinely in awe. We are caused to stop, reflect and appreciate – and to acknowledge that whatever we have achieved in our careers has just been put in sharp perspective.

This happened to myself, several colleagues and some of our clients last week when Boase Cohen & Collins hosted a dinner at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club with Ada Tsang, the first Hong Kong woman to climb Mount Everest. We had helped sponsor Ada’s successful expedition in May this year and, as a thank you for our support, she kindly agreed to give a talk about her experiences.

We expected it to be interesting, in fact it was truly inspiring. With the help of videos and photos, Ada outlined in graphic detail her story, how she went from being a humble school teacher in the New Territories to a fiercely competitive adventurer who overcame huge mental and physical challenges on her ascent into history.

We learned how, in an effort to inspire her students to reach for their goals, she made a promise to them seven years ago that she would climb Mount Everest. At the time, she had no mountaineering experience. We heard how she turned herself into a formidable athlete in order to improve her fitness and gain mental toughness, winning numerous trail races and mountain marathons.

We found out that she branched out and excelled at other sports such as cycling and canoeing. She learned rock climbing and ice climbing. And she did all this on evenings and weekends while holding down her teaching job until, unable to secure further casual leave for travelling to overseas races, she gave that up and went out to seek sponsorship for her efforts, talking to corporates, educational establishments, sporting brands and anyone else who might support her.

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Ada Tsang during her historic conquest of Mount Everest.

Ada described how her first attempt to conquer Mount Everest in 2014 ended when the Nepalese Government cancelled all activities on the mountain following a deadly avalanche. She tried again the following year but disaster struck once more with the Nepal earthquake. Five of her teammates lost their lives in the resulting avalanche while Ada suffered serious head and chest injuries from which she took six months to recover.

Showing enormous courage and resilience, she regained fitness and returned to the mountain this year for a third time. She was finally successful when, on 21 May, she stood atop the world’s highest peak with two male teammates and a pair of Sherpa guides.

What is more, Ada told this story with a rare mixture of self-deprecation, humility and matter-of-fact calm to an audience who remained rapt from start to finish – until it came to question time, when there were so many that the evening ran well past its allotted finish time. The feedback we received from guests in the days that followed was overwhelmingly positive. Indeed, one company chairman requested Ada’s contact details in the hope she would agree to address his senior executives.

Like many law firms or, in fact, any organisation in the corporate world, Boase Cohen & Collins is often approached for sponsorship. There are any number of deserving causes out there and deciding what we can support, to what degree and how, is not an exact science, but there are parameters.

Essentially, we like projects that are youth-orientated as we believe in supporting Hong Kong’s future leaders. We look for initiatives that reach out to the community. We like activities that inspire and send a positive message, that promote an active and healthy lifestyle. And we are attracted to programmes that offer our staff and clients a degree of involvement and interaction.

Among our current efforts, we are proud sponsors of the annual Boase Cohen & Collins Inter-School Sailing Festival, organised in conjunction with the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. The monies we have invested have given countless youngsters an otherwise unimagined opportunity to learn to sail in a safe, positive and competitive environment. We organise our own annual Corporate Golf Day – the next one is at the end of this month – which raises monies for the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children.

We are a sponsor of Hong Kong’s biggest charity golf tournament, the WAGS (Wednesday Afternoon Golf Society) Charity Day, which raises funds for the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation. We have entered Boase Cohen & Collins teams in sporting events that support causes such as the Po Leung Kuk, Raleigh Hong Kong and Rotary International. Beyond Hong Kong, we assist an U15s football team in southern England.

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Boase Cohen & Collins runners in the Rotary Hong Kong Ultramarathon.

Ada’s remarkable achievements dovetail perfectly with our ethos – excellence, professionalism, global outreach and rising to challenges. That is why we support her and she has more than repaid our investment, the latest instalment being last week’s talk at the FCC that so captivated our lawyers and clients.

But her story is far from finished. Her new project is to take five of her former students to Everest Base Camp next year, showing them how to break out of their comfort zone, pursue their own dreams and, hopefully, become role models for other young people. It is a noble ambition and a worthy cause, one which we are pleased to support. Boase Cohen & Collins will be with Ada each step of the way.