Our Founders


Mr. Robert Yet-Sen Chen


Mr. James Chen

Our Founding Story
By James Chen, Chairman

For the last three generations, our family has believed passionately in giving back to society. Both my grandfather Mr Chen Zao Men and my late father Robert Yet-Sen Chen have shaped our family's philanthropic principles and those of the foundation.

My father overcame war, poverty and famine to establish an international business enterprise and always knew that he wanted to give back and build on his father's legacy of good work; building schools, a hospital and funding much-needed public works.

But beyond this, my father felt that philanthropy was about far more than writing cheques – it was hands-on, with the understanding that your time and knowledge was often as valuable as any money you could contribute.

This spirit and audacious approach inspired us to establish our family foundation in October 2003. The concept was to put philanthropic activity at the core of the family's ethos, so my parents, sister and I set up the Chen Yet Sen Family Foundation prior to my father's unexpected and premature passing on November 29, 2003.

As a family, we returned to Qidong to help shape our own purpose and find the causes that we cared most passionately about. We visited the establishments that bore the names of previous generations, to find inspiration for this new chapter of our family's philanthropy.

Indeed, it was as I was standing in a dimly lit Qidong library, financed by my father, that a light bulb switched on in my mind. When the locked door of the library was swung open, we entered a sterile, drab, uninviting room; with half-empty shelves of textbooks, teacher training manuals and academic tracts.

I know my father would have wanted something different. He would have wanted something to excite a student to read or to encourage a love of reading.

And so we took our own first independent step along the road to catalytic philanthropy, to identify a new purpose for our foundation.


In Qidong, the movement began with the retired teachers' association, who pledged to stock the library's shelves and read to students. The only thing we asked was that parents and children must be involved in selecting books for the library.

I will never forget the excitement of the children when the books they had chosen arrived – science fiction, biographies, mystery novels, folktales, encyclopedias. Their excitement, their yearning to learn was what made me realise we were onto something big.

In parallel, our eyes were opened to the issue of poor vision – primarily in its tremendous prevalence amongst children in Greater China, but ultimately amongst entire populations and generations around the world.

Globally there are at least 2.2 billion people with poor vision¹, and it has a profound effect on each individual life from the classroom to the workplace. And for most, it could be solved by a 700-year old invention-glasses.

These insights have profoundly shaped our dedication to early childhood literacy and vision correction – and ultimately in enhancing access to learning and development opportunities, whether in the inception of new campaigns or initiatives, or in supporting noteworthy programmemes in these fields.

Our work as a family continues today in Mainland China, Hong Kong and into the rest of the world; with myself as chairman, my mother Daisy as Treasurer, and my wife Su also on the Foundation's board.

[1] World Health Organization(October, 2019)World report on vision, https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/world-report-on-vision