Eddie Chan has had an extraordinary life and career. He excelled at university, became a talented engineer, and was tasked with major infrastructure projects which took him to the length and breadth of China and different parts of the world.
Eddie Chan was born in Hong Kong and completed his school education at La Salle Primary School and College. In 1971 he decided to further his education in the UK and went to Sheffield University in the mid 70’s, where he obtained a combined degree in engineering with high honours. He qualified as a Chartered Civil and Structural Engineer and Chartered Manager with a MBA degree.
Notwithstanding his country of birth, Eddie admits that his understanding and vast knowledge of China stems from his time spent as an engineer in many of its provinces. In the early 1990s, he became the Project Development Manager and then director of Sir Owen Williams International Limited and oversaw one of the first Sino-British engineering consultancy ventures in China based in Hebei, which included the construction of some of the first expressway network in China.
In 2000, when frequent overseas work trips became too demanding, he decided to leave the industry and pursued a career in charity work.
In recent years he has been largely credited with his involvement with 2 Chinese charitable organisations.
As director of the Chinese National Healthy Living Centre, he received praise for transforming it into a highly regarded organisation. Under his directorship the Centre – for its work with Hepatitis B for the Chinese in UK – won the NHS Health and Social Care Award: Success in Partnership Working in 2010.
During a chance meeting with Stephen Perry in Soho, 2008, the pair discussed their concerns of isolation, marginalisation and loneliness experienced by many elderly Chinese people. Promptly they agreed to establish a charity – Chinese Welfare Trust – which would provide assistance for many Chinese people.
Eddie Chan certainly is an authority on Chinese issues in the UK. Not only is he well respected in Chinese circles, but his tireless work is quite rightly appreciated and valued. His talent for deep thinking and consideration has allowed many to benefit greatly.
Eddie Chan interview extract with Nee Hao Magazine:
Why should people support the Chinese Welfare Trust?
“We [Chinese Welfare Trust] are able to deliver things that other Chinese organisations can not deliver. In that respect, we are unique. We provide a whole range of support services in particularly for the less fortunate. The Trust is well worth supporting. Many people support it too – the 48 Group, in particular, has been most generous.”
What has been the organisation’s biggest achievement?
“The original aim was to establish an extra care home for Chinese in London until the downturn of the economy came which made the raising of fund impossible. These days we are providing general help in people’s daily lives including finding accommodation from housing associations for instance. Also our floating support work is helping people to get rid of daily problems. In addition we are providing some funding to some Chinese community centres to run services.
Can you name some problems encountered by the Trust?
“Without money we wouldn’t be able to support officers or projects. Money is absolutely essential. With financial cut backs by councils this has not helped us as a charity.”
What are your views in the cut in funding for Chinese charities?
“This is a UK-wide problem. The government wants to make the UK more cohesive. Councils no longer provide funding to support a single race. All new migrants should learn English and integrate. In order to combat the cuts, we charities should work together – join forces and share resources. This will save money and make delivery a great deal more cost effective.
But how do you suggest Chinese charities/ communities can work together and not compete with each other for an already decreased amount of funding?
“Most importantly, we all need to keep an eye on the change on the profile of the Chinese diaspora in the UK. Review all our services and projects to assess if they are still appropriate – in 1, 3 and 5 years’ time. Work in partnership or establish consortia to bid for funds where deem necessarily.”
What is this Chinese Community forum on April 29 about?
“I will be convening a large meeting for representatives from Chinese community organisations across London. The event will see groups of people discussing new ways of delivering services for Chinese community. It should last 3 hours.”
Your wide-ranging work for Chinese communities has been recognised with your honorary membership to the 48 Group Club, what advice would you give to the younger generation who wish to following in your footsteps?
“Everyone should aim to help people. If people really want to make a difference my advice is to volunteer at organisations which need help to solve problems, like community centres, youth centres and schools.”
Merlene Toh Emerson will be also attending the forum on the 29 April as co-chair of the Chinese Welfare Trust. Placing people’s problems at the forefront has been one of her central aims. What do you think the reaction will be in the Chinese community should she be elected to London Assembly?
“I think it would be great if she were elected. Her campaign is going very well. The more Chinese people we can see in holding public office, the better. “