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I am from a dual heritage background. My maternal side of my family is from mainland China and they emigrated over to England in the 1960s due to the implementation of communism in China at this time. My paternal side of the family is from Liverpool and therefore I am mixed race identifying as White Asian.
I have a strong relationship with my maternal side of my family and therefore I identify heavily with my Chinese heritage. It is important for me to continue to observe traditions and immerse myself into this community in order to support with my own identity. My paternal side of my family were quite racist, including my father which, looking back was a unique position to be in as a child. This began my journey in identifying and understanding my identity which has continued throughout the years.
Whilst growing up it was difficult for me to develop a sense of identity, I look predominantly white British, however, my Mum is Chinese and therefore her cultural identity was more visible. This at times caused me to feel as though I could not integrate fully into either ethnicity. I was not Chinese and I was not white. Therefore, in school as a child I did not find myself represented by any pupils or staff members.
Celebrating Chinese new year in school, teachers and pupils always gravitated towards me and looked at me for education on this matter, whereas for the rest of the year there was no acknowledgement or consideration of my heritage. Looking back at this now, I feel a sense of racism from these professionals. They were culturally bias towards my background and there was a presumption that this was easy for me. They were not mindful of the impact this had upon me, at times revealing my cultural identify unsafely without my consent. I was trying to fit myself into a world of White British people and sometimes it would be easier to not identify my dual heritage, however, the school did this for me.
This continued in both primary and secondary school, however, I had learned how to mask and fit in when I could. There were times I was exposed to indirect racism as a child and this was difficult to comprehend or challenge as I did not want to identify myself as ‘different’ from others. I also experienced direct racism, and this felt significantly isolating. I was reminded of my difference in a negative way, I felt shame and embarrassment for my own cultural identity.
We lived in a deprived area of the community and would actively experience hostile racism within our home. From a young age I learnt racist language that was directed towards me and at times they were inaccurate and not aimed at my culture. This highlighted to my and my family that there was an entrenched racist culture embedded into our community and to fight this was impossible, difference was not accepted. There were a number of years we were unsafe in our home and this was a daily struggle for me and my family, experiencing violence and aggression for a number of years. This experience was not shared by any others around us and we were segregated from those we lived amongst.
My maternal family placed an importance on attending higher education and gaining qualifications that led to a successful career. There was pressure from this side of the family to do academically well. However, my family were close and my siblings and cousins were in similar positions and were able to identify well with each other and support with this.
In my professional life I have felt that I have been able to adapt to an identity that fitted with my situation. For example, I have worked in areas where racism is quite profound and being able to ‘blend in’ and identify as white at times kept me safe. However, I was always aware this was not my true identity and felt uncomfortable.
In my current professional role there is an emphasis on understanding family backgrounds and I do feel as though my personal background, experiences and family life has enabled me to progress in my career due to a unique understanding of the effects of cultural heritage. I am able to use my experiences to improve on my practice and create awareness for others.
As I have been so aware of my cultural identity throughout the years, I have been able to adapt well, therefore in my personal life I was able to learn to identify in the safest way possible. In my personal life there are times I am placed into a position where I have to ‘disclose’ my cultural identity as I am ‘other’. There is a presumption of my background and I regularly need to challenge this, reinforcing that sense of not belonging, a constant reminder. As mentioned previously, there were times when I was young where I was exposed to racist language and behaviours and those around me were unaware of the impact this was having on me. This was an uncomfortable position to be in, feeling incapable of challenging this safely. Therefore, this made me conscious of those I chose to spend time with and was mindful of who I became close too and allowed into my life.
I am passionate about supporting those who may be more vulnerable in our society, sharing a difficult journey with someone who is struggling can make a significantly positive difference to the way they may experience and remember their challenging times.
I’m also passionate about raising awareness of equality and celebrating difference. Recognising everyone’s unique identify and empowering them to develop their own sense of self. With this we can promote equality. There are those in society who are often marginalised and face discrimination, I want to work to fight oppression and stigma against those people and support a more diverse equal society for our young people to grow up in.
I work with young people who are experiencing mental health difficulties, which can be an incredibly isolating time. When working with these young people I am able to make a positive difference to their difficult journeys. The young people I work with are inspiring and should be celebrated for their achievements.
I feel honoured to work for the NHS, particularly Alder Hey as it allows our families and young people to get the care they deserve at the time they need it the most. The NHS demonstrates equality; it allows all members of our community to have access to the best care regardless of their background. This puts the needs of the families and young people at the forefront of our care.
When working with families and young people who may have had adverse experiences, I am able to provide support to them at their most vulnerable and embark on their journey of recovery with them. Once a young person has reached some of their personal goals, knowing you have been there to support them is a rewarding position I feel privileged to be in. The journey for these young people and families, their carer’s and guardians can be difficult and inconsistent. However, remaining in a position of stability and supporting them with their difficulties is fulfilling.
I am proud of using my experiences in life in a positive way and allowing these to support my professional endeavours. I have overcome stigmatisation, discrimination and oppression in order to continue to work towards my goals in life. These experiences have given me an insight into the impact of such things and how it is important for me to work with young people to continually raise awareness on a number of factors which affect our society.
The struggles you go through are a part of your story, and you can tell that story one day.
My story may be unique to me, but the experiences may be similar to some. The journey I have embarked on has shaped me and given me the passion I have today. You are all unique, with your own identities, and you should celebrate and embrace your differences that make you who you are.
Alder Hey Children's Charity