VICKY SUNG 🌸
How you got involved.
"I initially reached out to HCCS to speak with Jabez (current joint manager) as an aspiring journalist; I knew of his activism and campaign work with the Chinese community. (Prior to this - I was I was the venue hire manager at China Exchange, a cultural charity who promotes and make Chinese culture more accessible through events and cultural programmes). I then became a volunteer helping out with setting up the film night programme and completing funding applications. The role of East and Southeast Asian Outreach Worker was vacant at the time, I went for it and I got it! I began working here in November 2020, reaching out to existing ESEA organisations and individuals to further develop services/activities for this community."
What the HCC offers.
"Our most essential service is our advice and support offered in English, Mandarin and Cantonese across social welfare areas such as housing, education, employment and healthcare. The clients we serve have limited command of English and rely on our services to make telephone calls, applications, and appointments on their behalf. Without this service, a portion of the ESEA community would not be able to access public services."
Who founded the Centre?
"We were founded in 1985 to serve the local Chinese community in accessing public services. Our current joint managers are Wing Kong Fung and Jabez Lam (above!) who have backgrounds in finance and community work."
Is it mostly for the people from the older generation?
"The majority of our members are elder, 60+ but we now have a growing younger generation becoming members, collaborators and volunteers. This is an exciting time as increasingly, there is an appetite to interact with other generations, especially youth with elders, to hear their stories and show care and respect. We have had two intergenerational projects. The first was an art and craft workshop, the other is massage sessions. These have attracted new people from different ESEA and non-ESEA backgrounds to share space and explore identity, generation gaps, and migration stories in ESEA people. Recipes, stories about parenthood/loss/relationships have been shared that would have otherwise been lost. We will continue to develop activities that bring different generations and different cultures together."
"Hackney Chinese Community Services is now in a transition phase where we are in the process of reconstituting to become a ESEA community centre and relocate to the Old Bath Community House 12-14 Englefield Road London N1 4LS which is a 6,000 square foot space with a community garden. The idea is that this will be a shared community space for ESEA, of course all communities are welcome to join, with advice services, community activities, co-working spaces, hall hire, lunch club and pop-ups. It will be cross-community and multi-generational."
Other events you offer?
"As well as the Dining Clubs, we hold monthly film nights, free massage demonstrations 10:15-11:00 every Friday guided by a holistic therapist. The idea of these is for participants to learn how to massage others and interact and respect other generations. Book club is held on the first Thursday of the month, 6:30pm-8pm, a free event to discuss ESEA authors and stories. There are tai chi classes every Saturday 12-1pm and lion dance practice 1-4pm, £5 per tai chi class and the lion dance practice is free. Lastly we have free breathing and movement sessions 5:30-6pm every Wednesday in August led by a community yoga facilitator!"
What the Dining Club with Rangoon Sisters meant for HCC?
"It meant firstly that East and Southeast Asian cuisine was enjoyed, celebrated and shared. Rangoon Sisters were kind enough to choose us to fundraise for and we really appreciate the support. We have welcomed new faces to the space and the collaborative team spirit is something we always encourage."
The first in a series of mini interviews - with some Women in Food who have inspired me over the past year in small and big ways. Either met them on-ground, or worked alongside; sometimes the best way!
Relationships, deep connections, evolving through conversations and the spaces you find yourself in are one of the most valuable things, I'm learning; in a world too fast - we may not be able to have a dedicated mentor or guru like old wisdoms advise, but we can find mentors collectively - guide each other, and take the time to listen.
At a time where 'entrepreneur', 'the gig economy' and 'going freelance' can often be overly celebrated perhaps we need to recognise that 'doing what you love' is not always the easy way out or something people have chosen. Maybe it's an act of resistance to grow new spaces for change, beauty and true meaning - not just for themselves but for others - outside of capitalist systems.
On Staying Focused.
"Having a clear understanding of what I’m doing and why has had the largest impact for me this year. Through my leadership course, I set a life mission - seems a bit scary! - but if you have a core intention of what everything in your wider life is leading towards then you stay more focused"
"This doesn’t need to be specific like being the CEO of a business by 45. Mine is to make the world a more fair and equal place; therefore every small thing I do points to that - like working on a community food project, educating through writing about veganism and animal advocacy, working on resources around diversity and discrimination, and supporting small ethical businesses to grow. My portfolio of work might seem random to some but it makes sense to me and the impact I want to have on the world. That's the most important thing".
"Success is really hard to define and I think it should be very personal. We can spend too long comparing ourselves to other people, or looking at stereotypical definitions of success (like mortgages, having children, career pay), but for me it comes back to the mission thing. I know that I’m being successful if I’m able to meet any part of my mission; if I’m inspiring or connecting with other people. That could be through making a meal, publishing a piece of work, creating a new recipe. I stay focused through bringing myself back to what it is I'm doing and why. At the end of the day, you're in control of your own life and your own success".
"I'm off to (currently in) Sri Lanka for a month! To take stock and bounce back into 2022 to continue working on my mission. I realised that after a very full on - and rewarding - 18 months, I need to reset.
I’m also about halfway through a diploma in Ayurveda Lifestyle and Nutrition so want to focus my energies on that and see how I can make connections between that, my yoga practice, and cooking.
Cooking-wise, I have a few small projects lined up including a residency and catering - can’t say too much more about those atm! Plus various classes, cook-a-longs and definitely more community-focused work".