CAAWR – Where it Started

Chinese Adult Adoptee Worldwide Reunion (CAAWR) was a one off reunion that took place in Hong Kong in 2010. The project has now ended. Many of the committee members from the CAAWR naturally kept in contact and HKAN was a natural progression from the CAAWR project (Find out more on the About HKAN page).

It was felt that it would be a shame to loss all the useful information from the CAAWR project site when it was decommissioned in 2013. So the CAAWR committee felt that it should be integrated into this HKAN website.

About the CAAWR

Due to the history of Chinese adoption, there is a big gap between the ages in Chinese adoptees. The younger generation tends to be a result of the one child policy and adopted from Mainland China. The older generation tends to be a result of adoptions in the 1950s & 1960s from Hong Kong. This means that a majority of adult Chinese adoptees tend to be from HK, but this will most certainly change in the not so distance future as the younger generation grows up. There are also very few intentional adoption made from Hong Kong now.

At the time of the the CAAWR reunion there were pockets of adult HK adoptee community groups out there in the world, but they didn’t intersect that much. This made finding other adoptees externally challenging. In 2009 in search of others, a number of HK adoptees connected online and decided that it would be great to have an adoptee reunion in HK itself.

The CAAWR committee was comprised of international HK & Chinese adoptee/orphan volunteers with diverse backgrounds and experiences. The goal was to come together to share, support and bond with other adoptees/orphans while tapping into local HK and international adoption organisations. It was a great event and the CAAWR committee would like to thank everyone that took part.

The 2010 CAAWR reunion was a milestone for many of the people that attended. Below is what happened (directed copied from the original):

___

Reflections of the 2010 HK Reunion

The 1st CAAWR Reunion, finally happened. We are so thankful for all the people that joined us, supported us and spoke at the reunion. The attendees ranged from mainly adoptees or orphans who had never returned back to HK to a handful who had visited or who had worked in HK as adults.

We are happy to report that the reunion went mostly according to plan. We wanted to share with you some of our personal reflections of the reunion.

Pre Official CAAWR Reunion

The official dates of the CAAWR 2010 HK Reunion was Wednesday, 29 September – Saturday, 2 October. However, a number of CAAWR Committee members and attendees actually arrived earlier. We thought it would be nice to also include the days leading up to the official CAAWR reunion.

“Going to Hong Kong was like coming home but being completely lost at the same time!” – Debbie Cook

 

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Fanling Babies Home’s Trip

[singlepic id=21 w=”300″ float=”right”]While this visit was not an official part of the CAAWR Reunion, a number of adoptees, former residents of the home, organised a mini visit. Fanling Babies Home is no longer there and in its place is a large building complex called the World Trade Square. After an exciting 20 minute minibus detour, the group finally got there. As Fanling Babies Home was torn down in 1992, there was much speculation about where the main building may have been. We were told that it may have stretched a whole block. A couple of the adoptees went back at a later date and they actually managed to find a small derelict part of the home. You can find out more at www.fanlingbabies.com.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Little Sisters Reunion

It often happens that adoptees search for other adoptees online. Early on in the planning process some of us at the CAAWR had hardly met any other adoptees let alone adult Chinese/HK ones. Along the way we slowly found others and we stumbled into a group of Hong Kong adoptees that were mainly based in New Zealand. They independently were also planning a reunion in September 2010 in HK. Thus, some adoptees attended both the Little Sisters reunion organized by the New Zealanders & the CAAWR reunion.

The Little Sisters Reunion began with a Monday session. Adoptees shared personal stories and experiences with each other, watched a documentary, had a meal and rounded the day off with a lovely trip to the Peak. We thank them for letting some of us attend their reunion.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Immigration Office

[singlepic id=20 w=”300″ float=”left”]A few of the CAAWR adoptees decided to brave it and head to the HK Immigration Office in the hope of applying for HK ID cards. In general, for many adoptees regaining their Chinese identity by obtaining some Chinese/HK identity such as: duel passports, ID cards or citizenship is very symbolic. The HK adoptees/orphans that were relinquished between the 50’s through the 60’s were the first major generation of Chinese adoptees, so a small group of us went to the Immigration Office in high hopes to be accepted back by our birth-land. Sadly, due to a lack of or missing information on some of our adoption/birth papers, no one was successful at obtaining a HK ID that Tuesday morning. We were told other forms needed to be filled out and so we left a bit deflated, but we also left determined. To learn more about the process, see the HK Records, Roots Tracing & IDs page.

Committee Meeting

Despite the disappointing immigration office trip, it was time to turn attention back to the reunion and this was a chance for many of the committee to actually meet up in person for the first time and do all the last minute things that needed to be done. We won’t bore you with the details =:).

 

CAAWR Reunion

Wednesday, 29th 2010

Finally, the day had arrived! The event kicked off with introductions all around. For an icebreaker, Amanda led us through a step-in game which everyone thoroughly enjoyed as it was a fun way to learn a little about each other. Group photos were taken to remember this historic reunion.

David Youtz (Mother’s Choice) – A History

[singlepic id=8 w=”300″ float=”left”]David gave an extremely informative presentation on the history of adoption in Hong Kong. He explained that HK suffered terribly from the Japanese invasion during World War II and it took a long time for them to recover. During the 1950’s and 60’s there was extreme poverty and a lot of children (mostly girls) were abandoned. During that time there were a lot of immigrants from mainland China hoping to get a “better life” in HK. Due to the British influence in HK at the time, most children were adopted to English speaking countries like, New Zealand, Australia, UK, Canada and the USA. This is not the case today as the majority of children are adopted by local HK residents. There are still international adoptions, often special needs children.

Wendy Blackmur (Home of Loving Faithfulness) – A reason

Wendy talked from the heart about her experience working in the orphanages. She really helped us understand the circumstances using the story of raising her adopted son as illustration of the challenges. She explained how the extreme poverty at the time meant that the birth of another child often meant one too many mouths to feed. While they couldn’t feed another baby, they did want the child to live which is why they put the babies in public places where they knew she/he would be found, like stairwells and public bathrooms. For the adoptees that knew very little about their backgrounds or reasons of relinquishment, Wendy’s first hand accounts were invaluable.

Phyllis Lee (SWD) & Anita Ng (ISS) – A Process

They both spoke together as a panel representing both domestic adoption (Social Welfare Department) and international adoptions (International Social Services). After hearing about the history and reasons for adoptions in HK, to finally get an insight into the pre-adoption and post-adoption processes was extremely useful. Paper work, roots tracing, record recovery and ID card applications were all hot topics.

Evening

[singlepic id=2 w=”100″ float=”left”]After a long and intense information packed day, all the jet lagged attendees were happy for the evening off for food, shopping and socialising. It was also a good chance to actually get into HK itself instead of being stuck in a venue room. While some made a night of it, there were undoubtedly others who needed their beauty sleep.

Thursday, 30th 2010

Closing Session

Nancy and Amanda led an open discussion in the morning. Nancy shared some of her personal experiences including reliving the abandonment and how she tackled these difficult issues and Amanda shared her birth search and finding her birth mother. The more formal part of the reunion came to a close with a discussion of what the next reunion could be like, when and where to hold the reunion.

Po Leung Kuk

[singlepic id=10 w=”300″ float=”right”]Po Leung Kuk is a charitable organization in Hong Kong with a long and illustrious history of caring for the young and protecting the innocent. As adoptees, we are very grateful for the orphanage services they’ve provided through the decades. So it was an extreme honour that Po Lueng Kuk treated us to a special tour of their main residential facility on Hong Kong Island, especially since some of us were adoptees from Po Leung Kuk. Their museum is open to the public, but we were given an extended tour that included meeting some of their very young residents. That was truly one of the most memorable experiences during the reunion as it reminded us of what we must have experienced as orphans when we were 3 or 4 years old just like the young children we met that day.

Interview by Reporter for South China Morning Post

As adoptees, there is always anxiety when it comes to the media. A few from the CAAWR were interviewed for the South China Morning Post (an English language newspaper in HK). The question always arises, how much are you willing to tell a reporter? It was not the most optimal time or place to be interviewed. We were late to the interview because of the Po Leung Kuk tour and the hotel room was tiny and cramped. It was a shame that we were too tired to talk all that coherently but we appreciated that the newspaper was interested in our stories.

Dinner hosted by Adoptive Families of Hong Kong (AFHK)

Many of us made it to the restaurant despite a classic HK sudden down pour. It was wonderful for AFHK to host a dinner for us at the American Restaurant. AFHK had reserved five tables (10 each) and we were asked to split up so the CAAWR adoptees could intermingle with the adoptive families from Hong Kong. There was quite a variety of food including pigeon (for the brave) and plenty to eat. It was a fitting way to end the day with a sumptuous Chinese banquet.

Friday, 1st October

Mother’s Choice Birthmother Session

Mother’s Choice has facilities to help single girls and their families facing crisis pregnancies. With the help of an interpreter, 10 of us from CAAWR and several birth mothers from Mother’s Choice listened to a birth mother share her personal story of relinquishing a child which moved most people to tears at various times. This session was very profound for everyone, especially as a birth mother viewpoint is not something many adoptees get to hear and we thank the speaker for having the courage to talk to us. After the session was over, David took us on a tour of Mother’s Choice and we got to see some of the babies in one of the rooms.

Dinner and Fireworks

[singlepic id=28 w=”150″ float=”right”]As it turns out, 1st October is National Day. The committee took Courtney out for dinner to thank her for all her advice, support before, during and after the reunion such as: paying for the lanyards and MCing the reunion. A harbour view while the fireworks are going off is definitely the way everyone should have dinner every day!

Saturday, 2nd October

Trip to Big Buddha on Lantau Island

[singlepic id=23 w=”150″ float=”left”]As the last day of the reunion, some decided to take the day out to Lantau to see the Big Buddha. We all climbed the 268 steps of the Big Buddha and got to the top without much difficulty. It was a beautiful day so we could see the island very well from the top. After a few tourist faux pas and a cable car ride later the official reunion came to a close. Over the next few days most people started to make the long voyage home.

Conclusion

Many of the adoptees/orphans that attended are continuing to process the 2010 trip. We know we only covered a fraction of unique experience that everyone had in HK.

If you were involved in the event, we invite you to leave a public comment below, or you can contact us if you think there is something major you think we missed or want to be “quoted” .

We want to thank everyone again for their participation and hope to see everyone at our next reunion! And for those who couldn’t make this reunion, we hope you see how much fun we had and can join us at some of our country reunions as well as our next official CAAWR reunion!

“Who would have thought that here we are most of us in our 50’s have another truly amazing family of sisters (some brothers too)! I am so eternally grateful that it was possible to meet so many of our sisters in Hong Kong at the Reunion last September. For me it is a new and exciting chapter in my life and I shall treasure the time I had getting to know my new found sisters and that will remain very close to my heart.” – Debbie Cook

 

“Even though I was not able to make it to the 2010 Reunion, just being a part of the committee and being part of this has been a life changing, intense but rewarding experience. Hope to meet you all one day =).” – Jess Emmett

 

Local/International Partners & Support 2010 Reunion

We would like to thank all the people and organisations that have helped us make the 2010 reunion a reality:

Mother’s Choice – www.motherschoice.org
Holt International (USA) – www.holtinternational.org
Families with Children from China (FCC of Greater New York) USA – www.fccny.org
International Social Services Hong Kong (Intercountry Adoption) – www.isshk.org
Social Welfare Department HK – www.swd.gov.hk/en/index/
Adoptive Families of Hong Kong (AFHK) – www.afhk.org.hk