There were tributes and memories shared in Cardiff today (24.1.2020), as people came from near and far on the eve of the Chinese New Year, to celebrate the life and legacy of Angela Kwok, a champion for the Chinese community in the city.
Wales’ fourth Purple Plaque was unveiled in Angela’s honour at the Bamboo Garden on Cathedral Road by her daughter Temmy Woolston and other family members. They then joined guests and speakers Deputy Minister Jane Hutt AM, Julie Morgan AM and Professor Meena Upadhyaya OBE for a celebratory get together at the aptly named Happy Gathering on Cowbridge Road East.
Angela arrived in the UK aged 16 from Hong Kong, speaking limited English and facing vast cultural differences, however her positive attitude and tireless work made an immeasurable difference to the lives of many Chinese women living in Wales.
Marrying at 19, she and her husband established a take away business in the city. However, this meant working unsociable hours and Angela observed the effects of a restricted social life on the women in her community, with many Chinese women feeling isolated, lonely and with limited English unable to access basic services such as health.
She began accompanying the women to GP appointments and supporting with translation, eventually setting up the South Wales Chinese Women’s Association in the mid-1980s at Riverside Community Centre, where soon more than 50 women were meeting weekly. It was a chance for them to talk and take part in activities such as cooking, sewing, English lessons, computer classes, family social events and day trips.
Unfortunately, in the late 1980s, the centre burned down, however, undeterred Angela formed a new organisation, Cardiff Chinese Community Service Association, again providing advocacy, advice and events for the growing Chinese population of Cardiff.
During her life Angela also took on a number of other voluntary responsibilities. She provided support to South Wales police with translation, became a member of the Race Equality Council, instigated the establishment of the Chinese Cemetery in Pantmawr, Cardiff and acted as a “surrogate” mother to at least 15 overseas female Chinese students during their University holidays.
Sadly, Angela passed away in 2016, however, all her hard work in establishing a cohesive Chinese community and raising its profile in Cardiff is evident today as the community remains united and is inclusive in the diversity of multicultural Cardiff.