The story of Ms. Po-Ling Ng is one of achievements marked by ideals, perseverance, commitment, and hard struggles. As the Assistant Exec. Director of the Chinatown Planning Council, the director of Project Open Door, and a prior President as well as Vice-President of Manhattan's Community School Board #2, her many achievements to date have brought her a long way from her humble beginning.
Po-Ling was born and raised in a poor family of eight in China. After migrating with her parents to Hong Kong in 1949, her childhood was marked by extreme poverty and scarcity. She worked long hours after school to help her mother on handicrafts. It was the only way for her mother and the children to earn extra income to supplement the meager income of her father. Even when she was in college, she maintained tight and busy work and school schedules. She went to school in the morning, worked at the local YMCA in the afternoon, tutored youngsters, and taught at an evening high-school at night. It was rarely before eleven o'clock at night that she found time to do her homework and studies. Yet, she excelled in her academic performance and was a recipient of various scholarship awards. She received her B.A. in Sociology in 1963.
Po-Ling was married to Mr. Po-Ming Ng, a young civil-engineering graduate of her same college in 1962. While Mr. Ng worked at a local engineering firm, she taught at a local secondary school and at a primary school while she pursued and obtained her diploma in education from the Sir Robert Black Teacher's College in 1967. It was one of her rare periods of stability and tranquility.
The young couple migrated to the U.S. in search of a better life and future. They settled in NYC in 1967. Language barriers kept Po-Ling from continuing the teaching career that she loved. Her only alternative was to work as a seamstress at a local garment factory in Chinatown. Those were the difficult years. As a highly educated person working in a manual-labor position, she was only making less than $21 a week! She persevered. She worked her way up and was soon making as much as a thousand dollars a month! However, her heart was still with education and doing community work. She responded to an ad put forth by the Chinatown Planning Council in 1969 and was soon hired as one of its first staff members. Noble and altruistic as the job was, its annual salary was only $5,100 before tax! So, Po-Ling continued to work as a seamstress in the morning and at CPC from I to 10 p.m. On weekends, she struggled to find time to study English.
Po-Ling's husband passed away suddenly in 1975. She was left alone to take on the responsibilities of a single mother to raise her four children all by herself. She was determined to raise her children in the best way she could. With the encouragement and support of her mother-in-law, a strong woman herself with a peasant background, she worked hard to provide for the needs and education of her children. Po-Ling is very thankful of her mother-in-law and has since pledged to reciprocate her kindness by her own dedicated care and concerns for the elderlies in our community.
Po-Ling received a scholarship award to study for her masters degree in bilingual education at the Long Island University in 1975. Taking as many as 12 credits per semester, she graduated as a part-time student in less than 18 months! All the while, she was working full-time and raising a family with four children singlehandedly!
Po-Ling's struggle to improve herself did not stop there. While working full time for the Chinese American Planning Council, she also enrolled at Fordham University School of Social Work's evening program and studied part-time for her second masters degree in social work. It was not without great financial difficulties and personal hardship that Po-Ling endured the next three long years of full-time community work, full-time mother of four, and part-time graduate student. Her persistence paid off when she finally got her Masters of Social Work degree in 1983.
When Po-Ling first joined CPC, it had less than $75,000 as its annual budget, and had only five staff members. When CPC obtained its first funds to start a senior citizens center in 1972, Po-Ling was appointed as its first executive director. After 49 years of dedicated community work, 45 of which has been spent at Project Open Door, Po-ling a well recognized and respected public figure in our community. Building from the early days of Open Door when services were limited to informal social gatherings and English classes etc. to its first small government grant in 1972, was no easy task indeed. With current staff consisting of 23 workers and a membership of over 7,000, the Project has come a long way under the leadership of Po-ling. All these years, she has run her Project's budget based on the following principles: maximizing the use of government funds for the welfare of the elders; utilizing CPC's own resources for the benefits of the elders; raising additional support and funds from the community for the betterment of the elders; empowering the elders to help themselves and each other. Po-Ling shares the concerns of the elders and she identifies their problems as well.
Po-Ling was appointed by the Community School Board to replace a former board member who resigned in 1982. She was selected from among over thirty highly qualified candidates. She was reelected and served the School Board for 18 years. She has always been committed to represent her constituencies the best she can, and to voice and articulate the many urgent issues that are of deep concern for the Chinese community. She believes that the future of our community depends on the expanded educational opportunities of our children. Her commitment and dedication to our community is well reflected in her many awards and recognitions over the years.
In addition to being recognized here in the U.S., Po-Ling and Project Open Door have also been honored in China. In June 2014, Po-Ling, on behalf of CPC’s Open Door Senior Center, was invited to bring awareness of the aging Chinese population’s needs here in the U.S. to the international stage.
In recognition of CPC’s invaluable work in the NYC Chinese and Chinese American community, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council awarded CPC with the “Bright Light of Overseas Chinese Award” with the translated inscription:
“You have never spoken about your unconditional love for your communities, nor have you declared your benevolent deeds. For half a century, you have treated the elderly with love and respect, and helped them to overcome difficult times, but you never asked for any payback, for good character and good deeds are what you stand for. You have traveled to each and every neighborhood in New York to care for and to render to help families in need. In the minds of the overseas Chinese, you have built a piece of Happy Land and allowed our elders to spiritually live at home. Your unconditional love is like a beacon in Manhattan in the night sky, brightening the hearts and minds of numerous overseas Chinese.”
During her many years of service for the Chinese community, Po-Ling has endured tremendous hardships and numerous personal crises. But her persistence and determination won out each time. She turned grief into strength, and continued to steadily move on forward·. Her success was not by chance or by mere luck. She earned it with the support of others and the community. To quote a favorite saying from her: "l am small in size, but I am good in my work; I've a good appetite, I eat and sleep well, that's why I'm healthy and am ready to serve my beloved senior citizens. I like my job, I like the results, and I'm proud of it." The senior citizens at Open Door and community are proud of our Po-Ling Ng also.