Charity chief picks her desert island reads

Mother’s Choice CEO Eyres longs for a meaningful life and her favourite books encompass themes of social justice, resilience, forgiveness, identity, destiny and love


Born and raised in Hong Kong, Alia Eyres was a corporate lawyer before becoming CEO of Mother’s Choice six years ago. The charity, which serves children without families and pregnant teenagers in Hong Kong, was co-founded by her parents in 1987. Eyres lives on-site at the Mother’s Choice centre in the city’s Mid-Levels neighbourhood with her husband and four sons.

These are the five books she would take to a desert island.

The Bible

When I was 18, I went to Bible school for a year before I went to university. I read the Bible every morning and night. At different seasons in my life, the psalms and verses have given me a lot of wisdom, comfort and inspiration.

I’m passionate about social justice – it’s what has inspired my life. I have four sons aged seven, four, two and nine months. Every week, with my three eldest children, we try to memorise a verse from the Bible.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Lauren Hillenbrand, 2010

This is an incredible book and has been such an inspiration to me. It’s the real life story of Louie Zamperini, a troubled teen who joined the army during the second world war and spent time in a prisoner-of-war camp where he was tortured. It’s a story of second chances, resilience and forgiveness.

Through my work, I come across people who have gone through incredible trauma in their lives – teenagers who have been abused, neglected, raped and told they have no hope. Part of what we say at Mother’s Choice is that no matter what you choose, there is hope for your future. I’ve found this book very powerful in my work – I believe there is hope for everyone.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, 2016

This is the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi and is about life and illness. He was an Indian-American neurosurgeon and in his mid-30s was diagnosed with stage-four metastatic lung cancer. He coped with it by writing his life story and reflections on his illness.

He passed away in 2015 and his wife wrote the last chapter. I don’t cry easily, but I wept through this book. I don’t want to wait until I’m older to find out what makes life meaningful. I turned 40 last month and I’m thinking about mortality, identity, who I am and how I want to raise my kids. Success for me isn’t how much money I make, but the depth and quality of my relationships and how I can have an impact on the lives of others.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, 1988

I read this book at university and its message has always stayed with me. It inspired me to think about my destiny, my calling and to look for treasures in others and myself. It all comes down to meaning.

There are so many powerful lessons in this book – how to face my fears, what is really important and how decisions that I make affect my family and the community. I feel that at Mother’s Choice – and for me as a leader – it’s a powerful message to have hope, for our city and for our community.

The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman, 1995

Relationships are a big part of what makes life meaningful and I want to be able to express love and connect with the people around me.

Every person has three deep needs: to love, to belong and to have significance. This book is about how everyone expresses love differently, and it has helped me with my team and my marriage.

According to Gary Chapman, there are five ways to experience and express love: through words of affirmation, service, spending quality time with someone, thoughtful gifts, and physical touch. I long for a meaningful life and want to raise my sons to become men who choose a meaningful life.

Original Link: SCMP

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About author

Kate Whitehead

Kate Whitehead is a Hongkonger and has made the city her home since she was eight. She got her first degree (BA English Lit) from Warwick University and her postgrad (MA English Lit) from Sussex University. She was on staff at the Hong Kong Standard and South China Morning Post and was the editor of Cathay Pacific’s inflight magazine, Discovery.

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