Contributing to the community
From volunteering for school ski trips to organising the Chinese New Year Charity Gala Ball, Jennie Sew Hoy, QSM, has always been involved in contributing to the community.
She joins her husband Donald Sew Hoy as a SuperSeniors Champion, the first couple in the Champions’ programme, which sees high profile New Zealanders advocate for positive ageing.
Mrs Sew Hoy is a co-owner and director of Glacier Investments, a garment importing company which supplies Farmers and the Warehouse, among others.
Her community work began when her children were little.
“I have three daughters and I’ve always been on kindergarten committees, primary school committees, intermediate committees into college,” she says.
“I was on the PTSA of Otago Girls High for five years for my last daughter, and you get involved in many things like helping be ski mother at ski trips – they often had a father who would drive the vehicles to take the girls to the championships but I used to feel, ‘Who was going to cook for those girls?’ so I went along.”
The husband and wife team are also committed Rotarians of more than four decades of standing.
“Originally women were not admitted to Rotary so it became the ‘Inner Wheel’ which was the ladies or the other half of the Rotarians – a separate club,” she says.
“I was in that as a charter member in Dunedin for 28 years until I shifted to Auckland.”
The family’s move saw the couple sign up to the Auckland Harbourside Rotary club.
Mrs Sew Hoy joined its fundraising committee and helps organise the black tie event for Chinese New Year.
“We usually have about 12 very dedicated and passionate committee members and we all work as a team,” she says.
The 500 guests at the ball dug deep into their pockets for the charity auction and this year raised $65,000 for the Ronald McDonald charity.
Then there’s all her voluntary work for the Chinese community, including the New Zealand Chinese Association.
“We run different courses for young people like leadership courses, we put on Chinese movies, there’s different clubs they can take part in like tai chi for the older person,” Mrs Sew Hoy says.
The active businesswoman is also on the committee of the Auckland Chinese Community Centre, known as ACCC, which holds Chinese New Year at the ASB Showgrounds.
“It’s a very big function – I think there’s about 120,000 turn up – there’s stalls of all different descriptions, there is drama and a programme all day so the community can come together.”
The centre also runs a weekly social event.
“They have tai chi, mah jong, table tennis, or even sit around and talk, and we take them on outings out of Auckland and stay overnight, probably one night, maybe two nights.
“They find that quite good because when they get into the older age group, sometimes they have lost one partner, and they can come together as a group of friends and still do things you wouldn’t do on your own.
“Of course, a lot of those people no longer drive a vehicle so for them to come together socially in a bus and go somewhere, they find that very exciting because it’s something they can look forward to.”
Mrs Sew Hoy is very active in the family company and travels to China on a regular basis.
She and her husband are a close-knit team and do “everything together”.
Her advice for positive ageing?
“I feel you must try to live life to the full and do what you can because I’m sure only being old doesn’t mean that you are no longer workable.
“A lot of people look forward to their retirement but when the time actually comes, I understand they regret it.
“A lot of my friends have told me they wished they carried on because after looking after the grandkids for the first couple of weeks, time is on their hands, and they feel they’re lacking using their brains as they used to when they were at work.”
The very full schedule looks set to continue for Mrs Sew Hoy.
“I think I’ve always been busy so to me it’s quite normal, it’s not a big thing. I just carry on and do what I do because I like doing it.
“But, I think the day may come when I no longer am able to do it and then I will probably have to give up.”
She laughs when questioned about slowing down.
“Definitely not! Also with Donald and myself, we’re heavily involved because we like doing the same things.
“Way, way back, in Dunedin our staff used to call us Donny and Marie. It was so funny. “They called us Donny and Marie because we probably did everything together, even in those days.”