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Bristol project offers lifeline to at-risk Chinese residents

By BO LEUNG | China Daily UK | Updated: 2016-12-12 17:53

Mrs Sun arrived in the UK five years ago from China to look for work without a word of English. The language barrier meant everyday tasks, such as paying bills or arranging a doctor's appointment, were stressful.

An anonymous Chinese-born man had a gambling problem that put him in so much debt he considered declaring bankruptcy. He didn't know where to turn for help with his problems.

Thanks to the Chinese Lantern Project, both got the help they needed.

The lottery-funded initiative is a free helpline set up by the Bristol and Avon Chinese Women's Group to assist members of the Chinese community in Southwest England.

"The project is a big help for me," said Sun. "While I'm with the doctor, I can call the helpline for translation. It makes my life much easier."

Helpline workers also put the anonymous man on the right track so he could get help with his problems.

Lin Voong, acting helpline coordinator, said: "My grandmother used to struggle with the language and I acted as her translator. I've seen and understood the struggles people have with the communication barrier, especially the elderly."

She said many Chinese community groups have closed because of funding cuts and the project helps to fill the gaps.

The next step is to identify isolated and forgotten members of the Chinese community.

"We went down to Bridgewater, Taunton and Bath and when we go to these locations, the Chinese there are so happy to see us and find we can actually help them," said Voong.

Many feel isolated and abandoned and do not know how to access public services.

"We want to go to remote and difficult-to-reach areas and, hopefully, we will be able to get funding and set up a hub for these people."

Callers can get help on a range of issues, including housing, benefits and law.

The project was set up in 2014 with 386,000 pounds from the Big Lottery Fund to last for five years. Bristol and Avon Chinese Women's Group director Rosa Hui said: "Very often the callers just want someone to listen to them, they want someone to show them the way, rather than physically being there to hold their hand."

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