‘Bridging the gap’ between London Chinese communities facing racism surge

Over 12,000 older Chinese people facing ‘self-enforced segregation’ and a coronavirus-fuelled surge in racism will be helped by a new scheme running in the capital.

Islington Chinese Association says its members are increasingly reluctant to go out due to negative comments prompted by ignorance around COVID-19.

The charity hopes to bridge the gap between Chinese communities and the wider community, reduce isolation and improve members’ wellbeing with a new scheme funded by a £250,000 grant from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder.

The project, entitled ‘Thriving beats surviving’, will enable befriending schemes, drop-in sessions, culture and leisure activities, while giving a voice to older Chinese residents – who often have limited English – and helping them access mainstream services.

Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said:

“London boasts a long and well-established Chinese population, but often language and cultural barriers can be an obstacle to integration – both with other Chinese communities and the wider community.

“This scheme will help to bridge the gap, reduce isolation, and help older Chinese people to be more independent and resilient, which is needed more than ever at a time when they have had to face ignorance and racism prompted by ill-informed views on the pandemic.”

The funding over five years will pay for a wellbeing and information officer who will recruit and co-ordinate volunteers and offer a culturally sensitive information and advocacy service alongside social and cultural activities.

The charity, founded in 1986, says it expects to help 12,000 older Chinese people, predominantly from Islington but also from neighbouring boroughs such as Camden, Hackney, Haringey and Westminster, many of whom face issues such as anxiety, loneliness or bereavement.

Katy Tse Blair, co-founder of Islington Chinese Association, said:

“We often see Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong Chinese and Mandarin-speaking mainland Chinese impose a kind of self-imposed segregation. They’re not always prepared to integrate and it’s not just the language barrier but the difference between their lifestyles, habits and aspirations.

“This grant will enable us to provide more educational, cultural and social activities – which are a great way to bring people together – to give our members a voice, help them to thrive and build their confidence, which has suffered due to sometimes unintended racism and negative stereotypes about coronavirus.”

Kin Fun Lee, Islington Chinese Association user, said:

“Islington Chinese Association is like a second home to me. I enjoy my healthy lunch there three days a week, participate in social and physical activities and Cantonese Opera singing. I take delight in meeting people from different backgrounds and walks of life which help me to build confidence and reduce loneliness since my husband passed away some years ago.”

Thomas Wu, named Commended Older Volunteer of the Year by Voluntary Action Islington in 2019, said:

“Being a volunteer at the Islington Chinese Association enables me to give something back to the community and make a positive difference to the people I help to serve.”

More information on Islington Chinese Association is at www.islingtonchinese.com

The City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Picture captions

- Activities at Islington Chinese Association

- Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile, dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, has allocated £11 million to the London Community Response Fund, set up to help charities deal with the impact of coronavirus, and has also given over £1.7 million in one-off grants to 202 organisations it already supports to help them offset lost income resulting from the pandemic.

The London Community Response Fund is administered by City Bridge Trust, the funding arm of Bridge House Estates. The City of London Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge House Estates and Members of its Court of Common Council form the City Bridge Trust Committee, responsible for taking grant and funding decisions for the charity.