Eddie Chan: Dedicated Chinese Community Leader

Lim JNW (2023 Eddie Chan: Dedicated Chinese Community leader. Journal of Dementia Care 31(5)29-30

Author details

Dr Jennifer NW Lim is senior lecturer in public health, researching on health inequalities in accessing care and services for people from culturally diverse backgrounds, at the University of Wolverhampton

Eddie Chan is a community activist dedicated to improving the lives and wellbeing of Chinese people in the UK. Jennifer Lim spoke to him about the dementia projects he has set up, including the Chinese Admiral Nurse in London Project.

Key Points

  • Elderly Chinese people in the UK need dementia support from someone who can speak their language
  • It is vital to build relationships between dementia organisations/ services and local community groups
  • The Chinese Admiral Nurse in London Project came into being after years of community engagement, including a dedicated local dementia awareness and support project
  • You need to understand the local demographics if you want to make the case for local change
  • Always start fundraising as soon as possible

[Q] Tell us about your career and how you became involved with the Chinese community in London

I was a civil engineer. I managed construction projects in the UK and around the world which required a lot of travelling. I often had to spend months away from home. Then one of my sons fell ill, and to care for him, I reduced my travelling and subsequently resigned from my job in 1999.

In 2000, I became director of the Chinese National Healthy Living Centre, a small London-based charity founded in 1987 to promote healthy living and reduce health inequalities for the Chinese population in the UK. I worked there for 19 years until my retirement in 2019.  During this period, I expanded the charity’s operations from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Swansea, Glasgow, as well as Northern Ireland.

[Q] Tell us about the projects you implemented at The Chinese National Healthy Living Centre

The London Chinese Community Network was the first project I set up, with the Chinese in Britain Forum, with funding from the Home Office. The Network promoted the interests of Chinese voluntary and community organisations in London. This covered research, publishing, brokering partnerships, organisational capacity-building, consultation conferences and community activities.

The second project was the first British Chinese All Party Parliamentary Group in 2003. I convened the group for seven years. Chinese people work hard, prefer to keep a low profile and not complain. Their political involvement was low, and to improve this, we started conducting political awareness raising events with the Chinese people in London, Birmingham, and Manchester, to encourage open discussions about political issues and voting rights.

We initiated the first dementia support services in London with three-year funding from the City Bridge Trust in 2013, which was extended to 2018. It started with people asking for help and information about dementia. The funding enabled us to employ two half-time staff to set up the service.

We conducted awareness raising workshops about dementia, improved knowledge through Chinese TV and radio stations, provided support and space for respite, created Chinese Dementia Friends, carer support groups and a support helpline. We also provided services to help people understand Lasting Power of Attorney, and assistance to complete the form. We developed a booklet about dementia in Traditional Chinese language, and organised a hybrid national conference. This was how my involvement in dementia started.

[Q] You have recently set up the Chinese Admiral Nurse in London project. What is it?

I started developing this idea with Dementia UK at the end of 2018 and invited the Chinese Welfare Trust to collaborate. This is an organisation aiming to improve the wellbeing of older Chinese people in London who are marginalised and isolated due to language barriers. There are more than 300 Admiral Nurses in the UK, but none could communicate in Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin). Our people need dementia support from someone who can speak their language.

After the Covid 19 pandemic we finally secured funding to deliver a 2-year pilot Chinese Admiral Nurse in London project and launched the initiative in 2022. We have now supported 51 families and delivered 11 dementia awareness talks across 5 boroughs and 3 carers support sessions, all in either Cantonese or Mandarin.

People who have used the service have said:

“I could understand and express more accurately in my own language… I’ve felt easier and more comfortable with the Chinese Admiral Nurse.”

“The Chinese Admiral Nurse is very kind, friendly, helpful and patient. She’s followed up closely on my problems and proactively found solutions for me.”

[Q] The Chinese Admiral Nurse in London project is a pilot study for 2 years. How are you ensuring its sustainability?

The pilot project is part-funded by Dementia UK (with support from one of their corporate partners, Invesco), and we matched the rest with funds raised by the Chinese Welfare Trust. We are relentlessly raising money to extend the project beyond its current term, and are also collecting data to support future funding applications.

[Q] What advice would you give to other Chinese community organisations if they want to set up an Admiral Nurse service in their city?

This service is beneficial if the community in the area has large numbers of elderly Chinese people. Check the data before considering this approach. Secondly, start fundraising as soon as possible, because Dementia UK provides only a part of the total cost.

A portrait of Emily Ka Hei, Lui, Clinics Admiral Nurse, Chinese Welfare Trust Clinic

Read an interview with Emily Ka-Hei-Lui, Chinese Admiral Nurse: