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Islington Chinese Association: ‘We are here for everyone in the borough’

PUBLISHED: 13:56 25 January 2017

Staff and service users at Islington Chinese Association. Picture: James Morris

Staff and service users at Islington Chinese Association. Picture: James Morris

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As Chinese New Year festivities begin on Saturday, the Gazette speaks to Dr Stephen Ng, CEO of the award-winning Islington Chinese Association.

Dr Stephen Ng MBE, CEO of Islington Chinese Association. Picture: James MorrisDr Stephen Ng MBE, CEO of Islington Chinese Association. Picture: James Morris

Though Dr Stephen Ng was born and bred in Hong Kong, his heart has been in Islington since the 1980s.

Stephen, CEO of Islington Chinese Association, graduated with a drama degree at City University in 1988.

After spells travelling, working in Hong Kong’s civil service and working in a community centre in Birmingham, he returned to Islington in 1991 – and has been a public servant ever since.

Islington Chinese Association was founded in 1986, and runs from St Gabriel’s Community Centre in Hatchard Road, Upper Holloway.

In 2005, it won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, something a proud Stephen repeatedly points to when the Gazette visited last night.

He says: “This is somewhere Chinese people can come together. Most of us are old folks – the oldest is 90 – and share the same language, customs and traditions.

“It is important because some people, particularly in the early generations, are illiterate. Not just in English, but in Chinese, too.

“Some weren’t able to go to school when they were young. Others may have had problems with gambling. It can make them vulnerable in later life, particularly if they are living on their own.

“So we can act as an intermediary or translator to help people with any problems they may have, from housing to health.”

Just as important is its social function. The association has a six-day timetable full of recreational activities from badminton to Cantonese opera singing.

Stephen adds: “People can come here for our lunch club, enjoy some chit-chat, read Chinese newspapers. Most of us are bi-lingual with different Chinese dialects, so it helps put people at ease.”

But he stresses: “This association is primarily for Chinese people, but open to the wider community. We are not exclusive. We promote Chinese heritage and work with all sorts of different groups, from Christian to Ugandan, to promote integration in our community.”

Stephen volunteered as a special police constable for five years up to 2012, and missed out on election to Islington’s Hillrise council ward by 49 votes in 2010.

He wants Chinese people to become more visible in public life: “I think we need more young talents to come out. Where are the Chinese politicians and public representatives?

“Personally, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to work in Islington’s community. It’s so diverse and I love to give back.”

Islington Chinese Association is holding a Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday, February 4. It runs from midday to 4pm. All are welcome. For more information, visit islingtonchinese.com

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