What do you do? Michael Wong (Bay Area Red Cross)
We were fortunate to interview Michael Wong, Asian Community Preparedness Manager at the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter and got to ask him some questions about what he does and why he does it.
TU: The Bay Area seems to be a real trendsetter: it’s always on the cutting edge, from technology to gay marriage to food politics. Even the Red Cross has a special department only found in its Bay Area association. What is it?
Michael Wong: We are both proud and thankful to be the only American Red Cross chapter to have a specific department devoted to preparing the vulnerable Asian community for disasters and emergencies.
TU: Why does the Bay Area need that?
MW: The Bay Area is one of the most diverse places in the U.S. As such, 33% of the Bay Area residents are Asian; and these residents are underserved and lack access to important information and services, especially those that can protect themselves and their families from disasters.
We attempt to reach the population through creating materials more accessible to them. We teach disaster preparedness, first aid and CPR classes in Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog and English, and we have a great pool of bilingual instructors to do this.
TU: Wow that’s a lot of languages to cover.
MW: We train bilingual preparedness and first aid instructors, and then our instructors go out into the community to conduct workshops. From June 2010 to June 2011 our instructors taught more than 300 workshops in the Bay Area, reaching more than 25,000 people.
TU: That’s fantastic! The more people that get prepared the better off we all are!
MW: But that’s not all we do. We partner with other organizations like the Salvation Army, the Tzu Chi Foundation, Catholic Charities USA, and other community-based organizations who serve Asian populations to give them tools to provide training to their own communities. Additionally, we host one-on-one Ready Rating trainings for small Asian businesses that are run by families who have no staff and no computer. We hope that we can increase the places that will be up-and-running after a big disaster, to help provide disaster relief works with food, water, clothing and medication.
And we don’t just focus on adults and businesses. We also run a program called Youth for Chinese Elderly which provides bilingual youth volunteers the opportunity to work with elderly that don’t speak English. They keep a watchful eye on each other: the elderly mentor the youth, while the teens help them learn English, as well as First Aid, disaster and emergency prep.
TU: How could our fans get involved with your groups?
MW: For either program you can contact me at 415-427-8077 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website has information for both the Youth for Chinese Elderly and Asian Community Preparedness, as well as places to sign up for disaster preparedness training, First Aid and CPR.
TU: Wow, you’re really able to get people to prepare now to be able to survive a disaster!