Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Tracy Chan

Tracy ChanTRACY Chan is the chairperson of the Lisburn Chinese Ladies' Group and also owns Bauhinia Palace Chinese restaurant in Moira. She is married to Stanley and they have two children. Tracy arrived in Northern Ireland 18 years ago from Hong Kong and studied business and finance at the University of Ulster before returning to Hong Kong. She came back to Northern Ireland when her husband got a job here. They set up their take-away and restaurant business in 1997 and it has been very successful. The couple's working hours and family priorities meant that they didn't really have a social life and they found coming to terms with a new language and foreign culture quite a challenge. In 2007 Tracy became involved with the Chinese Ladies' Group which is funded by Awards for All and aims to help integrate its members with the wider community as well as preserve its own culture and traditions.

I wake up around 7am. The children get ready for school and we have breakfast before they leave. Our restaurant doesn't open until the afternoon so this gives us time to manage family life. The chef arrives at the restaurant and prepares the fresh ingredients before my husband and I get there. We usually work six evenings a week and are closed on a Tuesday. This day is dedicated to the Chinese Ladies' Group. We seek to strike a balance between the two worlds by introducing Lisburn people to Chinese traditions, while at the same time keeping those traditions alive among young Chinese people here.

The Chinese community in Lisburn is growing. Until now, we in Lisburn looked to the Belfast Chinese community. But the idea of this group is that Chinese people living in Lisburn can meet more often. Our numbers are such now that we have formed an association specifically for this area to give us a chance to form our own sense of identity - but also to help the wider community understand our culture.

So successfully have many second-generation Chinese young people assimilated that there is now a danger of their native language and culture being forgotten. So many Chinese people are in the restaurant business and work in the evening we decided an after schools club would be useful, for instance, and we organised that through the group. It means Chinese children, who mightn't otherwise have met one another, can get to mix - the older ones can help the younger ones with homework too. We also encourage the children to speak Chinese - most of them would speak English given the choice because that's what they're speaking everyday at school, but the association would like to ensure they have a grasp of their native language too. As chairperson I keep our monthly meetings in order and arrange different classes such as cookery demonstrations, Mandarin English classes, yoga and stress management tor example. I am always keen to get feedback from the members on what they would like.

I meet up with our funding body Awards for All' and other organisations who support us including the South Eastern Education and Library Board, and the South Eastern Trust. We have young and elderly members and it is important to find out their needs and concerns and ways to help them. Some people don't realise they are entitled to translators at the hospital and dentist for example and the group try to highlight these entitlements. Some others have difficulties understanding the Education system and we will put them in touch with someone who deals specifically with their needs.

Ulster Star