Alia Eyres is CEO of Mother’s Choice, a local charity serving the many children without families and pregnant teenagers in Hong Kong. Alia leads a team of 150 at Mother's Choice who work on providing quality support services for children, youth and families in crisis, including a child care home, foster care services, non-judgemental support to pregnant teens, and adoption services. Prior to joining Mother’s Choice as CEO in 2012, Alia was a corporate lawyer in Hong Kong and in New York. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Alia is passionate about inspiring the wider community to play a role in caring for children, youth, and families. Somehow she still finds time to raise three lovely young sons, throw the occasional fabulous dinner party with her Irish husband and also remain one of the least frazzled, kindest people you'll ever meet. She answered a few questions for Baby Hero about herself, her family and her work.
What is your favourite part about your work?
Seeing life stories changed – especially where we’ve been told that situations are too difficult or impossible, that there is no hope. I’ve learned in a way that I never appreciated before that there is hope for everyone, there is no such thing as hopeless or too broken.
What is the hardest part?
Learning how to have boundaries – it was a struggle the first couple of years, caring so much about what we do at Mother’s Choice and not knowing how to take time for myself and my own family. I am working on getting better at this!
What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?
Ever since my youngest brother died unexpectedly at just 22 years old a couple of years ago, I made a decision that I wanted to start every morning being intentionally thankful to God for another day. It wasn’t an easy discipline to start out with and I know that it sounds cheesy, but has become an important habit for me.
Who inspires you?
My mom, Phyllis Marwah. Not only is she a co-founder of Mother’s Choice, an amazing mother who raised seven children, and a devoted grandmother, she is the person who taught me to redefine success. She is passionate about kindness and hospitality, it is the single measure that she has used to define her own and our success since we were children. I hope to be more like her when I “grow up”!
What is the best book you've read recently?
Three of the best books that I’ve read or re-read recently: 1) ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi, I wept through this memoir that made me think about what gives life meaning, 2) ‘The Color of Water’ by James McBride, I loved this memoir of another huge mixed race family, and 3) ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand, an incredible story of resilience and survival.
How has being of mixed heritage (Indian and American) affected you?
I realized pretty early in life that I had to find and define my identity differently than others…I couldn’t answer the question “where are you from” without taking 10 minutes to explain! It’s been helpful for me to focus on defining my identity based on my and my family’s values, and really appreciate the cultural richness that comes from having a very mixed heritage.
How did you meet your husband? Secret sauce for your marriage?
I met my husband almost ten years ago when he was the best man at a wedding in Ireland – the groom was his childhood best friend from Ireland, and the bride was one of my childhood best friends from Hong Kong. We got married less than a year after we met and we had been living on different continents, so marriage has been a real journey of getting to know each other! The two main ingredients in our “secret sauce”: 1) community – no one can do it on their own, and having some older married couple friends to mentor us through the ups and downs has been especially impactful; and 2) continual investment – spending regular time and even long weekends with each other (without kids or work!).
If you could pick just one character trait to give your children, what would it be and why?
Gratitude. I truly believe that it is the key to experiencing real joy in life, no matter what your circumstances.
Describe each of your children in three words.
Paxton: extroverted, compassionate, sensitive
Sheridan: mischievous, affectionate, curious.
Blake: laidback, determined, strong.Please share your thoughts on Baby Hero
I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, and that everyone has a role to play. Baby Hero is making such a difference in the lives of vulnerable women and their newborn babies. I so often meet moms who are isolated, and feel completely alone. Knowing that there are people out there who care enough to support me and my children means the world to me, and it’s so wonderful that Baby Hero provides mothers in need with the resources and supplies to improve the health of their infants.
How can people get more involved with Mother's Choice?
Our biggest need at the moment is families to open their homes temporarily to a child. We run a program called Project Bridge, where we match loving and nurturing volunteer families with a child who needs a safe and loving temporary home until they can join a permanent family. Come along to our next information session to find out more, and if you are interested, we will be there to help you at every step of the way!
Another way your family can get involved is by donating your birthday or other celebration to Mother’s Choice. These are both great ways to help your children understand philanthropy and giving, and it provides much needed funds to support children without families in Hong Kong. We also run a number of events throughout the year, including a Walkathon and Flag Day. For more information about getting involved, please visit www.motherschoice.org/en/take-action/
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