Ms Shirley He 何林露萍女士


Date 18 July 2014 Interviewed by Angelo Raffaele Ippolito
Language English Audio Edited by Ben Fielden 
Venue Chinese Health Information Centre, Manchester    

Shirley He was born in Tai Po Market in the New Territories in Hong Kong. Shirley and her three younger sisters came to the UK in 1973 to join their parents and other siblings. They settled in Weymouth, a small seaside town where she finished studying for her GCSE O-levels in school. Shirley worked in her father's restaurant until 1978. She spent the early years in the UK adjusting to a life that was very different from life in Hong Kong. For example, Shirley and her sisters were shocked that shops were closed on Sundays and very early on weekdays!

In the 1980s, Shirley started her nursing career and spent some time working in Manchester as an anaesthetic nurse and specialised in radiology nursing. After 1992 she attained her first level nursing qualification. Then in 1993 she went to Manchester Metropolitan University where she gained a BA (Hon) in Health Studies in 1996.

Being fully integrated into British society, Shirley first recognised the needs of the Chinese community in 1996 when she first volunteered to teach English to the Chinese elderly people at Wai Yin Chinese Women's Society (now Wai Yin Society). At the same time Shirley was working as a night nurse at the Manchester Royal Infirmary(MRI). In the same year, she became part-time co-ordinator for the elderly, and helped found the Chinese elderly tea club. Within 6 months the membership of the tea club increased from 20 to 80 people. With a grant from Age Concern the first Chinese Elderly Luncheon Club was set up shortly after that. Today it is called the Sheung Lok Centre.

Shirley decided that her skills in health and being able to speak several Chinese dialects would be more beneficial and useful within the Chinese community than in NHS hospitals. Since 1997, Shirley has been working as Nurse Operations Manager in the Chinese Health Information Centre (CHIC). CHIC was established in 1987. CHIC aims to improve access to National Health Service (NHS) for the Chinese living in Manchester and the North West Region, and help service users to overcome the language barriers.

CHIC offers a wide range of health services and activities to address the needs of the Chinese population especially among the elderly. These services include a free health consultation provided by a volunteer Chinese speaking doctor, a foot-care screening service, a drop-in service to provide help, information and support in dealing with all sorts of health matters including explaining NHS letters regarding appointments, diagnostic procedures, interpretation requests and so on acting as an important bridge between the patients and the health professionals. Besides, in order to reduce ill health and raise the general health awareness among the Chinese population, CHIC regularly organizes health talks on subjects such as Cancer, Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke Hypertension, Diabetes, Hepatitis B, NHS Bowel Screening, NHS Cervical Smear Test and NHS Breast Screening Awareness. Moreover, CHIC also provides other community health activities such as a Walking to Health Group, Tai Chi Classes and a Medical Class to promote a healthy life style. CHIC is the only charity organization which provides its own people with health interpreting service. This service is highly praised by local NHS hospitals.

In all above-mentioned good works undoubtedly Shirley plays a significant role, and her contribution has been very much appreciated by the community she serves.

Shirley faces hardship at work from time to time and current reductions in funding are her biggest concern for CHIC. She enjoys the challenge and likes meeting different people every day. She also enjoys playing badminton twice a week with her husband, going for walks and socialising with people from the community.