Fanling Babies' Home Booklet

Sat, 01/21/2023 - 20:13

This booklet was produced by Mildred Dibden between 1948-50 to send information to supporters of the work at The Fanling Babies' Home.   There are also stories of the children from Miss Dibden's diary. 

The following Advisory Committee names are mentioned:  

Dr Harry  Lechmere Clift and his wife Winifred  were CMS then BCMS missionaries from Nanning, Guangxi province, China.  From about 1930 Dr Clift set up practice in Nathan  Road and also opened the Hong Kong Evangelical Fraternity Church and Bookroom there.  It was he and his wife who had encouraged Mildred Dibden to start up on her own in Hong Kong in 1936, when she found no backing forthcoming from any UK missionary society for taking in abandoned babies.  The Fraternity supported Miss Dibden from when she started up in 1936 with her first baby in a small 2-bed rented flat in Tsim Sha Tsui up to the time she moved to Fanling in 1940.  The aim was to take in babies (not children) and an age limit of two was set because there were other charities catering for children at the time.  

The  Bragas were a prominent family of Portuguese origin who had been keen supporters of the Home.  Hugh Braga was an engineer who rose to become General Works Manager Hong Kong Engineering and Construction Co.  He gave Mildred valuable assistance after the war when the roof of the Home was found to be eaten through by white ants.  When the Home Advisory Committee was formed in 1946, Mildred invited Hugh Braga to be chairman. 

Hon Sec Mrs H Braga refers to Nora (nee Bromley), who was a BCMS missionary.  Jill Doggett's book says, 'For years the Bragas had been loyal supporters of Mildred's work.' 

Hon Treasurer Mr W GoonThere is a Willie Goon who gets several mentions in Beth Nance’s life story as he was a friend of the Nances.  He must have been a Chinese national as he wasn’t interned during the war.  Before the war he worked with them in the Clifts’ Emmanuel Mission.

During the occupation he and other uninterned nationals kept the Mission Church and book room going.  They managed to get a letter smuggled into Stanley Camp for the Nances hidden in a jar of peanut butter.

After the liberation he visited friends (Clifts and Nances and others) in Stanley Camp looking very thin and emaciated but having a wonderful smile on his face.

Mildred Dibden herself was a former BCMS missionary.

The founding date of November 11th  became the Home Birthday and was celebrated over 2 days every year, as for many of the infants there was no known birth date.

For China's Children Fund history see post below. 


Date picture taken
1949 (year is approximate)



1.    The Home was opened on November 11th, 1936.

2.    It was sponsored for the first 3 years by the Hong Kong Evangelical Fraternity. (Dr. and Mrs. Lechmere Clift).

3.    Only abandoned, or absolutely homeless children are admitted.

4.    No child over 2 years of age is eligible.

5.    The Home is run on voluntary donations, a yearly Government grant and the subscriptions from children's supporters. To support a child in the Home costs $35.00 a month.

6.    At the beginning of 1940, after many vicissitudes, the Home was established at the present house in Fanling. It was then thought time to break off connections with the Hong Kong Evangelical Fraternity, and to stand alone.

7.    Also in 1940 China’s Children Fund (America) undertook to support 21 children in the Home.

8.    At the outbreak of war in Hong Kong there were 98 infants in the Home. These had been sent in from the Hospitals, Police Stations and by private individuals, or had been left on our doorstep.

9.    During the war the work was carried on, but all the small babies died.

10. At the beginning of 1946 China’s Children Fund undertook the support of 54 children in the Home. (This number increased to 58 in 1948).

11. In May 1946, an Advisory Committee was formed in Hong Kong.

  • President - - - - Dr. Lechmere Clift.
  • Chairman - - - - Mr. Hugh Braga.
  • Hon. Treasurer - - Mr. W. Goon.
  • Members - - - -
    • Rev. E. W. Raetz, China’s Children Fund.
    • Dr. S. C. Wong.
    • Mr. G. Padgett.
  • Hon. Sec. of the Committee - - Mrs. H. Braga.
Fanling Brochure
Fanling Booklet, by Aldi

Front cover of the booklet.  It runs to some 18 pages.  The paper is very fragile.  I would guess the date to be between 1948 (as mention is made of Lucy Clay who joined the work then) and 1950 when Mildred Dibden left.  1949 would seem to be a fair guess.

A note on the back of the booklet says - 'This little book is printed to give information to new friends of the Babies' Home, and the stories it contains have been gathered over a period of several years and some have been printed previously.'

As well as information about the Home, the booklet gives some stories from her diary, which give a glimpse into life as she experienced it then.  

A strange little girl came to us during the last months of the war. The great world had not been kind to her. She stood, holding a filthy hat with a scrap of clothing, her Chinese suit bedraggled with rain and mud. Her long black lashes, her black hair and sunburnt skin gave her a strangely dark appearance, she stood there, utterly and acutely miserable, and fixed her large dark eyes on my face! Throughout the whole conversation regarding her - her glance did not waver. Silent, resigned and hopeless she stood waiting for what would happen next.   It was strange how beautiful she was. Her features were perfect, and as yet untouched by the Beriberi which made her little swollen feet so painful.

"Nothing could be worse than the past," she seemed to say, "Hunger - dirt - wet - pain, this wretchedness is life! What these queer grown-up people talk about doesn't matter - only to lie down, lie down, now, NOW!"  Her eyes wavered, I stepped quickly forward and placed her gently on the ground.

"Yes," the man who had brought her was saying, "she has been there on the grass for several days. We do not know where she came from, but we have given her water to drink, and sometimes a little rice.  We have so little rice ourselves !"

There followed weeks when night and day we struggled for her life. She lay there in the cot - too weak to move or speak, her lovely face now marred by the swollen, grey glassiness of Beriberi in its final stages.

And then there came a day when someone said, "The swelling is going down - her colour is better!"

And then - almost past belief - "I think she will recover !"

Very slowly she crept back to health and life - but not normal life.  Poor little girl. It is as if she never forgets! As if, surrounded as she is with the fun and laughter of happy little children - she yet lives alone in that awful past, where fear, hunger and exposure deadened all feelings and emotions. She waits silently, never speaking except in necessity, never playing. She takes her share of rations -neither pleased nor sorry at an extra treat of sweets or biscuits. Unresponsive to love or fun, she does what she is told, no more.

Poor little girl!  Can we by prayer and love, unfailingly given, win her to the natural joy of childhood?

Strange, cold, unlovable - in spite of these lovely eyes - can we, by the Power and the Grace of God, make a normal child of her? She is not dull at school, but rather shows intelligence when she does take any part in the Reading or Writing lessons. Is it true, as many say, that she is sullen and obstinate? Is it true that she, a wee girl of about 7 years, is cruel and spiteful?

I don't know! But yesterday, as I stood by the door, she took my hand in hers! - Oh rejoice! Rejoice over this - the first sign of a natural, normal, living little heart! If we can teach her to love we can help her to become a happy, loveable child, whose heart is with - instead of against - everyone.

Clearly the '2-year-old' rule was not set in stone for this 7-year-old and very needy little girl.

China’s Children Fund was founded in 1938 in the USA by Presbyterian minister J. Calvitt Clarke to aid Chinese children displaced by the second Sino-Japanese War. As the mission expanded to other countries, the name was changed in 1951 to Christian Children's Fund.

From The Fanling Booklet it’s clear that China’s Children Fund was involved from the beginning of the Home in 1940, supporting 21 children.

After the War it was found that the Fanling Home roof was eaten through by white ants and in a dangerous state.  The landlord however had died of cholera at the end of the war, and his widow wanted to sell the house and divide the inheritance and was asking HK$95,000 for it, which was quite beyond the Home's resources.

Rev Verent Mills, Regional Director of China’s Children Fund stepped in and offered to buy the house and pay for the repairs and permit Mildred Dibden to stay there rent free.  CCF bought the house for $28,000, renovated it at a cost of $45,000 of which a government grant covered $15,000, and also undertook to support half the children going forward.  A committee on which CCF was represented was also part of the deal.  The work was finished by autumn 1947.

After Mildred Dibden left in 1950China’s Children Fund took over the running of the Home with missionary nurse Lucy Clay in charge.  They began a policy of offering out the children for adoption to Christian homes in Hong Kong, USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand.  An info brochure of 1963 says 41 babies were admitted to the Home that year and 41 were adopted.

For post 1950 history of the Home please see the Fanling Babies’ website.

Modern times:  In June 2002, Christian Children's Fund and 11 other international child sponsorship organizations founded a worldwide network called the ChildFund Alliance.

Today ChildFund is a child-focused international development organization that provides assistance to children facing poverty and other challenges in 24 countries, including the United States.  ChildFund's headquarters are located in Richmond, Virginia, USA.   Individual sponsors contribute funds on a monthly basis. Sponsor funds are combined to benefit entire communities.

SourcesThe Yip Family of Amah Rock by Jill Doggett; Wikipedia.