AS New Year’s Eve approaches preparations are already underway to mark Chinese New Year with the unveiling of Wales’ fourth ‘Purple Plaque’ to commemorate the work of a woman from the Chinese community in Cardiff on January 24, 2020.
Angela Kwok, a champion for the Chinese community in Cardiff, will join an illustrious group of women whose work in Wales has been recognised posthumously with a Purple Plaque.
The Purple Plaques initiative came from women AMs as part of the centenary of Women’s Suffrage, with the first recipient being the late Labour AM Val Feld with a plaque on the side of the Senedd.
Angela’s daughter, Temmy Woolston will unveil the plaque at a ceremony at 12noon at the Bamboo Garden, Cathedral Road, Cardiff to be followed by a celebratory event at Café Castan, 1 Llandaf Fields, Penhill Road, Pontcanna Fields.
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 Association in the mid-1980s at Riverside Community Centre, where soon over 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 at least 15 overseas female Chinese students during the 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 wide diversity of multicultural Cardiff.
Temmy Woolston, said: “My mother was truly an inspirational role model for all women in Wales. She touched the lives of many making a real positive difference, giving support to those that needed it and a voice to those that didn’t feel they had one. She is sorely missed by those that knew her but we are determined that her legacy will live on and this Purple Plaque is way of doing that, to make she and all her hard work is remembered for years to come. I’d encourage as many members of the public to come along as possible to honour her, she’d be delighted.”
Emma Tamplin, Chwarae Teg said: “The Purple Plaques campaign aims to improve the acknowledgement and appreciation of extraordinary women in Wales. They showcase and honour women across Wales who have had a long lasting impact on their communities and have previously gone uncelebrated. It’s therefore right that Angela’s life and achievements are recognised in this way.”
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt, said: “There are so many remarkable, inspiring women in Wales who could be acknowledged with a Purple Plaque for their contribution to public life. Angela Kwok deserves this recognition – she was a true advocate for the Chinese population in Cardiff, particularly women, providing advice and support. I’m very pleased to see this Purple Plague bearing her name.”
Julie Morgan, Assembly Member for Cardiff North, said: “The idea behind the Purple Plaques campaign, which was started by me and a cross-party group of women Assembly Members in 2017, is to improve the visibility of women’s achievements right across Wales. Angela embodies the essence of the Purple Plaques campaign – she was a remarkable woman and a community champion, especially for the women in her community, making them feel part of the wider community and giving them a voice on important issues that affected them.”