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Asian and Pacific Islander elders grateful for care kits

Students aim to support physical, mental well-being of senior Asian American community.
two masked people, standing near the back of a vehicle with a cart
Maikhanh Tran, left, and John Fawcett, OHSU Class of 2020, prepare to deliver kits that include cleaning supplies, toilet paper, food and masks in the Multnomah and Washington county areas.. (OHSU)

Many Asian American communities attribute happiness and longevity to strong community bonds and place high value on family and healthy living. Honoring a tradition of caring for and respecting family members, especially seniors, is at the center of their lives.

Oregon Health & PSU students became concerned about the physical and mental well-being of this community--especially seniors--in light of the negativity and bias that many Asian community members have experienced amid COVID-19.

“Seniors are vulnerable for so many reasons," says said Bin Chen, OHSU M.D. Class of 2022. "Not only does their age makes them more susceptible to illness, but they have also been the targets of racism. Fear of the virus and harassment have made many stay at home.“We were informed by the Asian Health Service Center that posters and fliers of racist and xenophobic nature were posted outside of their building. I knew I needed to do something.”  

The ability of the young and able to give back to elders in the community has a vast cultural significance that many Asian and Pacific Islander (API) students can relate to.

person holding a bag of rice on shoulder near a sign for the Asian health and service center
Dana Button, OHSU School of Medicine Class of 2022, joins fellow students in delivering care kits. (OHSU)

Bridges Collaborative Care Clinic (BCCC), a nonprofit, student-led clinic that provides health and social services to chronically marginalized individuals, has been working with Asian Health and Services Center (AHSC) in Portland to meet the needs of the underserved API community.

Since March, AHSC’s COVID-19 Asian Response Teams (CARTs) has reached out to more than 2,000 people, and more than 250 of them requested delivery of cleaning supplies and food boxes. With student-clinical activities canceled OHSU students contacted AHSC to find ways to collaborate in helping their communities, including donating hand-sewn masks.

 “Many of us come from immigrant communities who have stuck together through thick and thin. We wanted to do our part in supporting the communities that have supported us,” said Huong Nguyen, M.D. Class of 2022.

The volunteer group is a large mix of students from Oregon State University, Portland State University, and Oregon Health and Science University, representing more than 13 academic programs in all.

The students found out that the masks they produced were going to be added into care kits and that the Asian Health Service Center needed help distributing care packages. Understanding that delivering packages would require a community effort, the students recruited more volunteers.

“We were able to recruit more than 80 interdisciplinary students from OHSU, PSU and OSU of whom are bilingual and can speak Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean,” said Dana Button, M.D. Class of 2022.

“We feel extremely lucky to have so many of our peers, many of whom are still in class or transitioning to their future jobs, willing to volunteer their time and service to help our communities in need,” adds Nguyen.

The care kits include cleaning supplies, toilet paper, food and masks. Students started delivering care kits last week to seniors in our community.

"It was heartwarming and encouraging to see this effort that the student leaders have put together with the help of our community resources, especially during a time where the feeling of helplessness has flooded our communities," said Maikhanh Tran, D.M.D. Class of 2020. “We will always have seniors’ safety in mind. Elders are considered the carriers of knowledge, tradition and wisdom.”  

More than 25 care kits have been delivered in the Multnomah and Washington county areas and more are planned for next week.  

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