Moments, Memories & Looking for Mama

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.

Wonderful Reunion 21 Sept 2019

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.

HKAN Reunion 21.9.19
Group Picture

Reunion 21st Sept 2019

DateSaturday 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

Reunion Date: Saturday 21st September 2019

Please keep this date in your Diary for the next reunion in London

HKAN Meeting – LONDON 2019

Date: Saturday 21 September 2019

Venue: Kings College London Student Union (KCLSU)

Address: Bush House, South East Wing, 300, The Strand, London, WC2R 1AE

KCLSU is opposite the old station.

https://www.kclsu.org/about/contactus/

Room: tbc

Arrive from: tbc

Agenda

Julia Bell to talk to us about her work as a DNA detective.
Julia Feast – Consultant
Claire Martin to talk about her Long Lost Family journey experience to Hong Kong
Possibly there maybe another who will be talking about his mothers experience working in Fanling Babies Home tbc

Other

Early dinner booked for 5pm/5.15pm

Bill’s Holborn
42 Kingsway
WC2B 6EY
bills-website.co.uk

Pre order of food. 48 hours in advance

More details will follow

Celebrate Chinese New Year together

Saturday 16th February 2019

At The Chinese Community Centre, Birmingham.

Gathering from 11am. Start 12 noon or when everybody is present

Cost per person for the venue is £5

(Bring your own lunch if you want.)

Tea & Coffee will be available at £2

A Dim Sum meal at the Chung Ying will be booked for 4pm

Cost approximately £15 – £20

As this is the last day of the Chinese Festival, we need an early response so that we can book.

 

Please reply to Debbie to confirm your place on hkadoptees@btinternet.com

 

 

 

 

Birmingham Meeting 2018

A small group met in Birmingham at the John Lewis Hub. We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Chinese Festival in our own unique way – with Celebration chocolates and lunch at the Edwardian Tearooms where we shared moon cake. We rounded up the day with a visit to the Shakespeare Memorial Room at the Library of Birmingham.

UKHKAN Birmingham Meetup – “Last Orders”

Still trying to decide whether to come to the Birmingham meetup on Saturday 22nd September?  Can you let me know if you do wish to attend by Friday 7th September.
We have 10 people booked to attend so far including a new person.  Who would have thought there are still Hong Kong-born adoptees out there seeking a sisterhood.  
Venue: Community Room, John Lewis, Grand Central (above New St train station)
Time: Officially 12pm, but I will be there from 11am
Programme: 
12:00 – 2pm – Group activity & discussions –  earlier start if everyone is there
2pm – Group lunch*
3pm – 5pm – Exhibitions at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and/or Library of Birmingham – or whatever else people prefer
5pm – Mid Autumn Festival performances in Chinatown – the performances end at 8pm with fireworks.  I have to leave at 7pm
 
* lunch – I propose to book a table in the Edwardian Tearoom in Birmingham Museum.  Lunch will be approximately £10 per person + drinks.  
 
Please note there are no drink making facilities in the community room so you will need to bring your own.  There is a Boots and M&S in New St station plus loads of cafés and restaurants which do takeaway drinks. 
 
If you have already confirmed your attendance, no need to reply.  If you haven’t confirmed and would like to attend. please email Kate kagey62@gmail.com byFriday 7th September.  Thank you

Sisters in Spirit

An account of the April 2018 London Reunion

The UK Hong Kong Adoptee Network gathered again on Saturday, 28thApril, 2018 in the Bishop Ho Ming Wah Association & Community Centre in the Church of St Martin-in-the Fields at Trafalgar Square.

Claire kindly ‘volunteered’ to do the write up for the website.  We are very grateful for her enthusiastic contribution.  The edited highlights are below:

With 14 of us, it was a quieter affair than previous network meetings in London.  Of course, we were delighted as ever to see Julia Feast join us for the first part.  We had four newcomers, so the smaller group may have been a good thing as it seems to me there’s something quite introverted about many of us.  Kate had created a loose plan to give some structure to the meeting.  Everyone was asked to introduce herself (no men on this occasion), and state one thing they would like to do or talk about.  Those topics formed the ‘agenda’ for the second part of the meeting.  During the introductions, we discovered that the four new members had come across the network in a variety of ways – through personal contact, signposting and googling.  They had a variety of experiences mirroring those we’re already familiar with: happy family relationships; confused identity especially at school; lack of sense of belonging; desire to search for records; desire to find birth family.

As regards things people wanted to talk about: root tracing was high on the list and it was a joy to hear an account of how one member had found her biological sibling. She went back to Po Leung Kuk and asked to see her records.  To her amazement, there was reference to a brother.  After a hesitant start with emails and

Skype contact, the two met face to face.  His adoptive family was Chinese American so he had managed to learn (or retain) Cantonese. We have been told that boys were often sent to America because it was felt the prospects were better; it was more common for girls to be sent to England and other Commonwealth countries. In America, there was a higher number of Chinese families, and they were prepared to adopt.

I gave feedback on my experience with DNA Mysteries– the last chance saloon for abandoned babies registered with Long Lost Family, the ITV series.  It has been two years for me with no results. With their resources, if they cannot help me, who can?  It turns out that the researchers like a challenge and have a particular passion for those of us who were abandoned.  Wall to Wall, the Long Lost Familyproduction company is planning a ninety-minute one-off special featuring foundlings whose birth families have been traced using DNA.  Last month they organised a Genealogist Gathering and filmed about thirty of us in the hope that enough of us would have success and that we could feature in the programme.  The vast majority were white British but there were a couple women of who had been abandoned in Nigeria and, crucially, four of us Hong Kongers.  Who knows if the DNA thing will result in anything.  We hope but we’re not holding our breath.

Every network reunion ends with a group meal.  This time we enjoyed a Thai meal at The Lemon Tree pub nearby.  Often this is where the real bonding happens and other friends and relatives join in. This is the time when the grizzly details of our personal challenges are exchanged with mutual understanding and a good dollop of humour.  Meeting one of the new members at the DNA Mysteries event made me realise that there are some of us still out there on our own bobbing around without support or comradeship.  We had no Mother’s Bridge of Love (MBL) or Children Adopted from China (CASH). However much we hope that the likes of Wall to Wall may find our families, we know that their priority is making a TV programme and our level of complexity may mean we don’t fit conveniently in their production schedule.  It may be that our only success will be through our own efforts. By far the majority of us will never find relatives but we continue to cherish discovering each other, Sisters in Spirit across the globe.

 

Claire Ling Chi Martin

27thMay 2018

Final Details for London Reunion

Saturday 28th April 2018

Chinese Community Centre opens at 12:45pm. There will be a setting up period of 30 minutes – the meeting will therefore begin at 1:15pm.

https://www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org

You can eat beforehand or bring a packed lunch with you to eat during the meeting.  There is a café in the building for your convenience.
Volunteers needed for the following setting-up tasks: 
  • Registration & Fee collection (£5 per adult)
  • Tea/coffee making –
  • Setting up chairs & tables
Volunteers need to be downstairs at the CCC for 12:45pm. 
 
We must vacate the room by 4.30pm, therefore the meeting will end at 4pm and we would appreciate it if all stay to help tidy up.   We will then go for an early meal together for 5pm.
Link below
https://www.lemontreecoventgarden.com
 
New members: please be aware that non-adoptees attend our meetings. This includes spouses/partners; children; siblings; friends; special guests. Adoptive parents are not permitted to attend as our focus is to provide a safe space for adoptees but they are very welcome to join the meal afterwards.   Please let Debbie know if you are bringing family members or friends with you for catering purposes.