Edited by Dr KK Tse

Caroline was born and educated in Hong Kong. She went back to the UK to study theatre at Lancaster University. She came back to Hong Kong to work as she felt that she belonged to this part of the world.

Then she made a move that shocked her family and friends. She ‘migrated’ to Beijing and within two years she founded a social enterprise Hua Dan (花旦), the first of its kind not only in China but also in Asia.

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Hua Dan was, and still is, unique in many respects, such as:

  • A self-financing social enterprise using participatory theatre to train and empower migrant workers (mostly female).
  • Created democratic models of leadership within the company to ensure a non-hierarchical structure with continual feedback and contribution from all members of the team.
  • Trained the local team to take up all managerial positions; the first and current General Manager was a student in the first theatre class conducted by Caroline.
  • Unleashing the potential of migrant workers to develop themselves into professional arts facilitators and managers of an international-standard theatre company.
  • Developed innovative consulting, training and volunteer programs for international businesses in Asia, such as Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Nike, Orange, etc.

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Did you know? Hua Dan offers a range of different products for corporations working with migrant worker populations and running CSR programmes in China. Past projects have included health and hygiene education for Sichuan earthquake victims for Mercy Corps, financial literacy for primary school children in partnership with Citibank, global leadership training for CEOs and senior management on the impact of working in China in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Click here to see the full range of workshop offerings and get in contact with Caroline if you’d like to have Hua Dan come to your organisation.

Latest Development

Caroline was announcing the completion of an action research report, ‘Act for  Impact’ conducted by Hua Dan on the impact of theatre on the children of China’s migrant worker population.

In a year-long study, with the support of UBS Optimus Foundation, Hua Dan was able to observe and document such changes in behavior amongst the children as greater confidence and improved communication skills, enhanced relationships with family members and friends, and even greater success in school subjects such as maths.

Building on the China experience, plans are now in place to launch a series of summer camps with migrant and refugee women and children in Paris, Berlin and Jordan – “The White Dove Project” –  to replicate the model of Hua Dan’s work in China to work with refugee populations.

The camps aim to give children the space to express their feelings of the trauma of war and migration, develop the confidence and self-esteem to adapt to their new life in their host country and the leadership to become changemakers in their communities

For this purpose, Caroline has established three new charitable structures in the UK, France and USA, under the banner of Scheherazade Initiatives, to support the global scaling of the award-winning participatory theatre methodology and the White Dove Project is the first of these initiatives. Click here for more information.

Caroline was recently invited to give a talk at the London School of Economics as part of a day-long conference titled ‘Beyond Tolerance: Citizenship, Diversity, Constructive Conflict’. In the aftermath of Trump and Brexit, and with the tragedy of recent events in the UK, the themes of this conference have never been more necessary.  Click on the video above to see the talk and read Caroline’s blog on the event here.

Header Image from Hua Dan’s website.