In 2019, realising the 10th anniversary of the HKAN was approaching, we started putting out feelers for a venue in London and had had a few tentative conversations with several people who expressed interest in helping us out.
But in early 2020, a virus started to spread across the world scuppering our plans … or so we thought. With the advent of Zoom, an international reunion from the comfort of our own living rooms became a distinct possibility… and so it took place on Saturday 5th December.
This event was a celebration of the first international reunion of Hong Kong-born adoptees which took place in our birth country in 2010, and the development of the Hong Kong Adoptee Network over the last decade.
We invited 3 people who have played key roles in the Network’s growth to speak about their contributions. We heard from Kim Rogers, creator of the Fanling Babies website; Winnie Davies, Hong Kong artist who has provided practical support with the 2010 and 2015 Hong Kong Reunions as well as individual birth family searches; and Julia Feast who conducted the BAAF study into our cohort, and who has remained a good friend to the Network since. Their presentations are in the Private Members Area.
A Note from Debbie Cook, Founder of the UK HKAN Group
WOW this is marvellous to have the technology to be able to connect with you all like this 10 years ago I was still the broadband on dial up… it was an incredible slow pace. Internet and emails had only just started to become more common and accessible if you had a reasonable provider!
The UK HKAN group has grown so much over the 10 years, we were all eager then to learn so much about each other as we probably had spent most of our childhood thinking we were the only ones and all of sudden we had developed an extended family of sisters and brothers who would’ve thought it!
As you will see from the PowerPoint slideshow it takes you through the 10 years of what we have achieved so much, it really is incredible! (I apologise in advance if I have missed any event out but it maybe because I didn’t have any pictures/details)
I’d like to thank a few people who have made this possible, firstly my mother who contacted Kim Rogers who had written the “Fanling Babies Home” Website with many of the pictures given by Mei Yan. After a little persuasion I corresponded with Kim who enabled me to connect with some more adoptees here in the UK, Diana was the second person that I had met, she encouraged me to connect more and arrange our first reunion/gathering. Can you believe it we actually had our first few reunions in Chinese restaurants in Manchester and Birmingham.
In 2010 six of us went out to Hong Kong to attend the first Worldwide Adoptee Reunion where we met others from all corners of the world. It was staggering.
Around this time Julia Feast from BAAF who headed the study of the girls that had been adopted through the ISS World refugee project. She will be speaking later about her involvement. The timing couldn’t have been better, and we saw our group grow frighteningly fast. The help we received from Julia was amazing…Thank you
I would like to thank Kate for her involvement since we got back from that first reunion in 2010 she has been there managing and chairing these wonderful UK HKAN reunions. One in London and the other Birmingham annually (I really only like to be in the background honest!)
I would like to thank other adoptees who have stepped up and helped our reunions especially when we have been looking for venues free or at a minimal cost.
Both Sue and Kate and have been working together to organise this zoom meeting (As I am not as knowledgeable with the latest computer software available). A BIG THANK YOU AS I AM SUDRE YOU WILL AGREE IT WAS A MAMMOTH TASK
I would like to especially thank our speakers Winnie from Hong Kong (it is in the middle of the night), Julia Feast from Ex BAAF and Kim Rogers writer of the “Fanling Babies Home” website.
Lastly, I would also like to thank each and every one of you for attending the meeting as a celebration of our 10 years.
1). Winnie Davis Transcript
2. Sample of Slides shown can be found in ‘Talks Docs and More’ password protected
3. Please also find a copy of Kim R talk in ‘Talks, Docs & More’ password protected
Please contact Debbie for these by emailing request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Members it is with great regret and sadness that we have had to cancel any reunions this year – it would have been our 10th anniversary!
These are unsettling times and COVID-19 is clearly impacting our personal and professional lives, and those that we love. I wanted to wish you, your loved ones and fellow colleagues safe passage through this difficult period.
Please take care, stay positive and find sometime for having fun and smiling. It is challenging operating under the current restrictions; however, I am confident we will get through this, together.
It is with sadness that we heard Margaret Bryer passed away on 25th March 2020. We would like to thank her again for this informative and absorbing talk, and the support she gave our network.
This announcement from CFAB tells us about Margaret’s considerable involvement in Children and Families Across the Borders (formally ISS). http://cfab.org.uk/news/cfab-regrets-announce-passing-margaret-bryer
She has kindly given us a copy of her speech as there was great interest from the attendees to make it available on line. We would like to thank her for joining us and the work she has done over these many years.
This document must not be used without permission of UK HKAN
Research by Kit Myers, Amanda L. Baden & Alfonso Ferguson
(Please allow link to download as it comprises of about 33 pages.)
” Kit says, “He had learned a lot from everyone’s experiences and thoughts and are excited to be able to share that knowledge with other people, especially other HKADs, transnational adoptees, and the larger adoption community. The themes and takeaways that emerged from your experiences and insights will be beneficial for a lot of people. We sincerely thank all of the participants who helped make this study possible”.
This mixed-methods study examines 20 adult Hong Kong Adoptees (HKADs) with an average age of 53.7years who attended a Gathering of HKADs in Hong Kong. It has three elements (pre- and post-Gathering surveys and an interview). All participants engaged in two of the three parts of the study, while 14 of those 20 participated in all three parts. Survey data for the HKADs revealed significantly increased comfort with their Hong Kong identities following the visit to Hong Kong. Interviews with 20 attendees yielded themes sur- rounding reasons for attending; experiences and emotions; and the challenges and benefits of the gathering and return- ing to Hong Kong.
Po Leung Kuk
Chinese charitable association whose members served as the Board
Chinese charitable association whose members served as the Board; Superintendent has no decision-making authority.
Superintendent (an untrained social worker on loan from the Hong Kong Department of Social Welfare)
Visiting medical officer who made weekly rounds, possibly several times a week
2 caseworkers with heavy paperwork responsibilities
2 nurses, a supervisor and assistant supervisor who worked with sick infants
2 nurse’s aides
Amah’s (teenagers per Lau, who with children <5)
2 housemothers who lived next to dorms for children .5, assisted by 2 Amah’s
Main two-story building by high wall, three wings as well, large rooms but cold in Winter and hot in summer, 30-40 children in dormitories like hospital awards with beds in rows. 3 wards of children aged 4-6 have no beds and sleep on plywood. A home for unwed mothers and a vocational training school is also within this complex. On the northern edge of Victoria Island, a middle-income neighbourhood bordered by business district and low wage district, a busy area but with and enclosed garden.
450 children from infancy to age 18; Wards of 30-40 children grouped by age (when possible by sex) as “families”.
Amah’s only regular caregivers and rarely present except during feeding and changing. Ratio 1:22 per Lau.
Cleanliness and discipline emphasized, lack of organised games and outings; not a homelike environment. Children as old as 3 confined to cribs, much rocking, head banging and self-soothing observed. No stable mother figure for youngest children. Children age 4-6 attended school half day but otherwise were confined to dormitory and to their “beds” so not allowed to play together; mechanical sternness from housemother observed by Lau. Older Children had a full day of school, chores and some free play time. Despite being 15 minutes from the heart of Hong Kong all children were virtually isolated. Diet: standard rice gruel with bits of meat and fish.
Per Lau the Po Lueng Kuk children in his study were “uniformly malnourished” and small for their age. Many suffered insect bites and skin problems
Church of England
Committee chaired by Bishop of Diocese of Hong Kong
Assistant Superintendent after June 1964
Matron for Babies Section (including children up to age 5)
4 House mothers and 5 house fathers for children >age 7
38 child care workers in Babies Section
Former temple overlooking Tolo harbour, on the eastern shore of the New Territories, with 45 acres of land about 13.1/2 miles north of Kowloon. Many wings and rooms added, rooms described as large and airy, some had air conditioning, verandas with toys available and children used gardens for exercise when permitted.
-340 at maximum expansion; 160 babies and 180 older children ranging up to 18 but mostly much younger.
Varied but based on different wards of Babies’ Section, 6 amahs for 90 children would make a ratio of 1:15, but since the amah’s worked in shifts the actual ratio would be even worse. Amah’s were noted to have 1-2 favourite children with little personal attention for most.
Emphasis on education and self-sufficiency for older children; St Christopher’s School was attended by local children outside orphanage as well. Due to staff ratios babies often fed by propping bottles in cribs, toilet training often delayed. Older children lived in cottages under house mothers and fathers, assigned chores including cooking and shopping, also raised their own livestock and crops-half day in school and half day in fields or vocational training. Recreation included basketball, football, badminton, ping pong and swimming. Chorus, 5000 book library, motion pictures and playground with jungle gym available.
Children available for intercountry adoption through ISS but many seemed to age out and maintain ties with St Christopher’s as adults, often as employees. “Many” also adopted locally, but not that Lau suggest that for all Hong Kong orphanages domestic adoption was rare due to children being locally adopted before arriving at an orphanage.
Mildred Dibden; refused affiliation with any charity
Two English assistants, Valerie Conibear and Wendy Blackmur (who would go on to open Hope of Loving Happiness in Fanling in 1966 when Dibden returned to England).
Former Shatin police barracks, a two -tory brick and wood building, enclosed with 3 other wings to form a courtyard in 1957. Located in Shatin near to Fanling but father from Chinese border in eastern/central New Territories, closer to Kowloon. Lau notes location on promontory overlooking the sea, picturesque but very isolated, requiring crossing a wooden footbridge to access home, with magnificent vistas. Lau describes rooms barren and sparsely furnished but notes playground with swings and equipment.
No set capacity but Dibden stopped taking referrals in 1959 with 72 girls and 4 boys. Homogenous age groupings in both classroom and dormitories.
Varied but Lau notes that Dibden employed approximately 1 amah for every 11 children so 1:11. Fanling Babies Home we history of Shatin Hose notes that at one-point staff consisted of a cook, a gardener, several “nurse girls’’ eight amah’s and four women teachers. Amah’s were discouraged from forming relationships with children by Dibden (per Lau) because they were seen as having ‘rough ways”. All children saw Dibden every day.
Heavy religious component, Sunday School and church service, two evening services with hymns and bible stories for older children, grace before meals and bedtime prayers. Education in classroom also used religious stories, and children’s conversation was sprinkled with references to Jesus. Older children helped with younger. Lau notes an absence of squabbling and internal strife. Each given a share common surname (Yip meaning “leaf”) and individual Christian and Chinese first names.
Lau notes children more fearful away from home, fearful of change and novelty, acted as younger children do and clung to kind strangers. Better nourishment that other orphanages but still some moderate malnourishment and growth/height norms.
Fanling Babies Home
Protestant Church group (originally Hong Kong Evangelical Fraternity, then Christian Children Fund after 1946
Superintendent (Lucy Clay, English trained nurse specialising in Child care, fluent in Cantonese).
2 Assistant Superintendents
Nurses aides (junior high education)
Amah’s (loving but had favourites, lacked skilled handling emotional care per Lau)
Two-storey Chinese room is spacious, divided into six wards, with two smaller houses. Each room is spacious, well-ventilated, sunny for part of the day, and painted in pastel colours. In the Fanling region in the northwest New Territories 4km from Chinese Border; in 1966 closes here and relocates, becoming Pine Hill Babies Home overlooking Taipo Harbour in northeast New Territories.
100 children from infancy to age 6; historically many infants and children <2 or 3.
Nurse and nurse aides; 1 nurse and 3 nurse aides for 2 wards of 14-16 children each. Ratio = 1:8, however, Lau reports 1:13 ratio of caretakers to child, noting that nurses focused most on infants and were responsible for entire house.
Warm, home-like atmosphere per Lau; nursery school began at age 3 up to 3rdgrade. Some toys available; more adult interaction rather than RC. Children able to interact with one another but Lau suggests low age range made this difficult due to lack of social skills. Diet: standard rice gruel with bits of meat and fish.
Per Lau one half the Fanling children in his study markedly malnourished.
Chuk Yen Children’s Reception Centre
Government of Hong Kong
Social Welfare Department, Child Welfare Section
2 qualified nurses
10 nurse aides
Located in Kowloon near the Resettlement Area, surrounded by a hospital and school. 4-storied
L-shaped building of 10,000 square feet with a playground, well ventilated with two sick rooms. One for “mental children”. Rooms were clean, whitewashed. Equipped with both fan and heater for all seasons and decorated with magazine pictures of babies.
Seemed to vary given nature of mission as a reception centre, but -65 children 0-8years was the norm.
4 amah’s and 4 nurse aides worked on each shift over a three-shift schedule for a ratio of about 1:8.
Babies are described as crib bound and placed in rocking chairs on veranda outside ward if they cry too much, also described as observant of their surroundings and other babies.
Generally unknown; Lau notes that all orphanages in his study had malnourished and developmentally delayed children. Some children were place in Chuk Yuen with the knowledge of their biological parents and may have been able to return to them. Lau suggests that for Hong Kong orphanages domestic adoption was rare due to children being locally adopted before arriving at an orphanage.
by Claire Ling Chi Martin 25.9.19
We UK-based Hong Kong Adoptees enjoyed an action-packed London re-union on Saturday with 3 speakers and a new venue. Around 25 of us assembled in Bush House, the old BBC building in The Strand. Meeting rooms aren’t what they once were: London space is worth your weight in gold so multi-use is the mantra and we were confronted with a cupboard full of yoga mats. Fortunately we were rescued by the student staff at King’s (the new occupants) who transformed the room into something more familiar with tables and chairs. Hot water was a challenge too far on a weekend but we adoptees are adaptable and ingenious so microwaves and Costa runs saved the day.
Kate got us into the swing of things as usual with an exercise to spark our increasingly murky memories. Raffle tickets randomised the order of contributions rather than tiresomely working our way round the room. Anecdotes ranged from babies to tractor rides and it was a brilliant way of discovering something new about each other. Sharing fond memories of moments with adoptive dads was particularly poignant as a number of us in previous meetings recalled that we were scared of men when were first introduced into our new UK families. My father told me he couldn’t go near me for first 2 days without me screaming my head off.
We welcomed the two Julias. Julia Feast, the independent adoption consultant who wrote about the Hong Kong Project, joined us again, and we thanked her once more for bringing so many of us together after decades apart. Julia Bell, the DNA detective, came to talk to us about how she’d traced her mother’s birth family and developed the skills to solve the most difficult, and, in some cases, notorious and high profile birth searches. She has been key to helping Long Lost Family with some of their most dramatic discoveries and gives hope to foundlings with no name and no means to access records. She was honest about the challenge for those with East Asian heritage – 90% of the 30 million people on DNA databases are deep-rooted Americans. She also de-mystified some of the lingo and talked us through the end-to-end testing process and what the Dickens to do with the results once they’re through. Julia B gave tips on how to contact our closest matches from out of the blue without putting them into a tailspin and scaring them to death. Crucially, she offered the means to access the type of DNA kits most suited to us, on-going expertise and the prospect of meeting again as a group to compare results.
I discreetly (hopefully) updated the group on my Long Lost Family-sponsored trip to Hong Kong and gave the game away on reality TV filming methods. I trod the same path as those who had gone to our birthplace before and recounted my experience of the local press appeals and what a couple of our American adoptee friends charmingly refer to as The Dumpster Tour. I recalled the frustration I felt on discovering that there was no record of me in Po Leung Kuk, the orphanage where I had convinced myself I had shared a room with Laura and Joanna. I have been told that the episode featuring my search will be aired in March 2020 and I undertook to keep everyone posted when the date is confirmed.
Laura thrilled us with a vibrant and entertaining account of how she holed up in Hong Kong for 3 months and sniffed out leads under the guidance of an extremely determined Winnie Davies of Look 4 Mama fame. She shared her success with the group and showed us pictures of her recently discovered birth family. In the process, she helped them find and unite with a brother that had been sold to the village chief. They had been scared of taking the leap and they were grateful for their fearless new family member. Interestingly, some of them are still extremely wary of further discoveries – a sentiment which gives us an insight into why some Hong Kong families are reluctant to come forward – never mind that it’s still illegal to abandon children and they risk falling foul of the law.
Julia Bell was able to reassure us that our data is safe if we test our DNA. She has recommended a reliable and secure provider that has the best matches for us. Without giving too much away, we’ve discovered that 3 of us have a distant DNA match with a mixed race teenager in Cornwall. My Hong Kong trip made me realise the scale of abandonment and the size of our birth families. This increases the likelihood that we’re related to another Hong Kong adoptee. The more of us that test, the likelier it is that we’ll identify patterns to help us
We staggered up the road to Bill’s on Kingsway for food, fellowship and photos. It had been a full-on gathering and this was our chance to socialise.
By Yvonne Gee
Wonderful to spend the day with these lovelies yesterday at our HKAN meet up. Fascinating accounts by two members of their recent search for family members in HK.
It’s been ten years since Julia Feast first wrote, inviting around 106 of us to participate in her research project, examining the long-term impact of trans-racial adoptions, some fifty years after the formal adoptions by British families had taken place. Around 75, participated which is a rare and high response rate. The survey explored the impact the adoptions had had on our lives (how it may have impacted our personalities; life choices; and mental health) both as adults and as children growing up in a different culture and the various family environments into which we’d been placed.
There had not previously been any research examining the long term impact of adoptions on adult adoptees, so this was a first and therefore significant for social science observers. Also really significant for us, as many of us were unaware that there were many others who’d also been ‘exported’ from HK to be placed with UK families.
In the main the research found that we’d fared pretty well, despite some of the circumstances and difficulties some had encountered and had to overcome.
Date: Saturday 21st SeptemberTime: 11am – 5pm;
Followed by group meal at Bills restaurant Venue: Kings College London Students Union, Bush House, The StrandAgenda:
Julia Bell will talk about using DNA to find birth relatives; Laura Tan and Claire Martin will describe their experiences of finding birth family. We will also share/map the resources we have, and discuss a potential network project.
Cost: £5 per person (children free); everyone covers their own costs at the group meal
If you have already confirmed your attendance, there is NO need to reconfirm.If you wish to attend the meeting and the meal, please let us know asap
Polite note to anyone attending for the first time: Our primary focus at the meetings is to provide a safe space for adoptees to come together, share experiences and information, support each other in roots searching, and generally socialise with others with a shared start to life. You are may bring spouses/partners, children, siblings, friends. Adoptive parents are strictly barred from attending. Journalists, film makers, researchers and other professionals are not permitted to attend our meetings except as invited guest speakers; however they can join us for the group meal by invitation of any adoptee member. The Network does not purport to be a voice for Hong Kong born adoptees. Anyone who approaches the media or other organisations for support acts entirely in their own capacity.
WE NEED TO UPDATE THE UKHKAN DATABASE – RESPONSE REQUIRED If you wish to remain on the UKHKAN database for all purposes, please reply to this email ‘All purposes’If you wish to remain on the UKHKAN database for all purposes except meetings, please reply to this email ‘No meetings’If you wish to be removed from the database altogether, please reply to this email ‘Remove me’.
Thank you for your attention, and we look forward to hearing from you and hopefully seeing you in Sepember.
Kate Gordon & Sue Jardine pp Debbie Cook
Adversity, adoption and afterwards
A mid-life follow-up study of women adopted from Hong Kong
Julia Feast, Margaret Grant, Alan Rushton and John Simmonds with Carolyn Sampeys
This book is now available through HKAN Group at a Cost of £10 plus postage and packaging
(Or picked up at one of our reunions)
Please contact Debbie Cook
Email Address. Hkadoptees@btinternet.com