Jennifer Heathfield Lee

Where were you born? “Sarf”(south) London, England, not far from Greenwich.

Where else have you lived? I spent a lot of time in New York (did a 5-year, long-distance relationship from London with my then boyfriend, now husband) and 3 months in Sydney while on secondment from Hong Kong a few years after I first arrived here, but otherwise I always think of myself as a London gal.

How long have you been in Hong Kong? I flew out to Hong Kong the day Princess Diana died so, it will be 20 years at the end of August! It’s rather strange that I still think of myself as a Londoner at all. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been unable to lose the accent!

Which part of Hong Kong do you live in? We used to live in Tai Tam (for over 13 years) but to get more space, once we became a family of three, have ended up in Pok Fu Lam.

Children and ages? A gorgeous, precocious girl of 6 (going on 16, most days!) and a bonny boy of 2 (who is a cheeky monkey when he’s not being a terrible-two!)

Are you working in Hong Kong and what do you do? I run my own business, Athena Life, providing stem cell storage for newborns and young children. When looking for storage options for my own family, I realized that the quality of facilities on offer in Hong Kong were not world class. So, I decided to set up Athena Life to offer the very best stem cell storage facilities to Hong Kong families. That is one thing I love about Hong Kong; it allows you to be very entrepreneurial.

What work did you do in your past lives? When I arrived in Hong Kong I worked in FinTech (before anyone knew what it was in Asia!) and then in sales and relationship/team management roles at a couple of banks. I’ve done so through the Asian Financial Crisis (back in 1998), SARS, a couple of rounds of Avian ‘Flu and the Global Financial Crisis so I’ve seen a LOT of the impact such events have had on the “bubble” of expat life in Hong Kong.

What brought you to Hong Kong and why have you stayed? I followed my boyfriend (the one who had lived in New York) once he got transferred here as it coincided with me finishing university. We met in 1992 (25 years ago next month!) and we got married in 2003. Definitely the most exciting adventures here have been having kids and setting up our own businesses and we definitely live a very full life here

What time of day do you check Hong Kong Moms? It varies. Normally when I’m between meetings during the day but most often once I’ve got time to myself when the kids have gone to bed.

What posts do you comment on and why? Normally the most heated ones, to be honest. And usually with the aim of imparting some balance and calm. It’s SO hard to see things from another’s point of view. While we may not always agree with everyone and can have radically different viewpoints, just by trying to understand more where others may be coming from may give an insight you didn’t have before and take the heat out of the most fiery debates.

What is the best thing you have learned from Hong Kong Moms? That, mostly, people are kind and generous to one another. And nowadays there are a lot more Dads being the ones to stay home to look after the kids whilst their wives work.

What is your favorite Hong Kong Moms post? I admit a few that I started (Penis Beaker and Beckham’s Watch, to name a couple) have been fun to see develop because they’ve shown, generally, that we’ve lots more in common than our differences might suggest!  Amongst the giggles and shock comes a lot of camaraderie. I also love ones where the true spirit of Hong Kong Moms comes through, whether it’s Ivoneke and her cupcake drive (for a Canadian couple who were in HK to obtain life-saving surgery), or the many many instances where phones and bags and well-loved cuddly toys have been located by the community and returned to their rightful owners.

What do you ask Hong Kong Moms? Normally when I’m having a brain freeze (or overload!) and can’t recall the name of a fave restaurant or am drawing a complete blank about what to do with out-of-towners. Obviously there’s Google and TripAdvisor and all sorts of alternative resources but nothing beats the power of Hong Kong Moms for genuine recommendations. Actually, TripAdvisor came up blank trying to locate a decent coffee shop in Sham Shui Po a few weeks back but Hong Kong Moms came to the rescue in no time!

What is your biggest Hong Kong fave? The convenience, most especially which includes the amazing privilege of having a wonderful helper. Don’t know what I’d do without our lovely Josephine, who’s been with us 10 years.

And frustration? I know it’s old hat, but the pollution. You don’t need an expensive monitor to appreciate its become much worse in the past few years. The biggest frustration by far, though, is friends relocating/repatriating. There’s an oft overused phrase that “friends are the family we choose for ourselves” but nowhere is this truer than a place like Hong Kong. Every seven years or so you can find your whole network of friends has entirely changed. After 20 years that’s a LOT of dear friends who’ve headed to pastures new. And that can take its toll to be honest. But I also try to recognise what an amazing gift it is to have friends all over the world. Friends whom when you DO catch up with again, it’s like you’ve never been apart.

What is your craziest Hong Kong experience? Probably the time I danced on the bar in Carnegies (MANY years ago) with the ubiquitous Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. I’m normally such a wallflower.

Does anyone ever recognize you or your name from Hong Kong Moms? A few times, yes, especially given the service I provide through Athena Life. The most touching interaction was finally meeting with the beautiful soul, Nashua Gallagher at my neighbor’s (Jill Carter) housewarming party after many years “knowing” each other through Hong Kong Moms. She was so complimentary about what she thought/knew about me through the site. It’s so easy to assume that people have an online and an offline persona, but in truth many of the wonderful mums I’ve met through the forum have been all that you imagine they’d be — in a good way!

What kind of friendships have you made through Hong Kong Moms? I’m so fortunate to have met people like Jill Carter, and Cara Ng to name a few!

Which Hong Kong Mom would you like you to see featured next? There really are lots of fabulous people in our community. Leigh Coates is an amazing woman who is an incredible athlete and mom-of-two (30th in the world in the recent CrossFit championships and first in her age-group!). Jill Raymont, who does an incredible amount of work for a largely ignored group of people in Hong Kong, refugees. Business women who are in roles/industries that aren’t always necessarily highly thought of, and are breaking the mold by doing things differently from similar businesses. Jessica Cutrera Papadopoulos established her own (very successful) investment company, The Capital Company (and still manages to do lots of charitable work); and Amelie Dionne-Charest, of AD-MediLink. Both have manage to create successful businesses whilst raising wonderful children at the same time. I’m in awe! And Ivoneke Taylor who is a mother of multiples and famous for the cupcake drive.

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