On May 2, 2016, CAUSE held the Civic Engagement Leadership Fellowship (CELF) 2015-2016 graduation at City Club Los Angeles on Monday, May 2, 2016.
At the graduation reception, CAUSE Executive Director, Kim Yamasaki, briefly stressed the importance of the CELF program to the community. Since its inception in 2008, CELF has been “working to bridge the gap between local government and Asian Pacific American (APA) immigrants,” Yamasaki explained.
“Within Los Angeles County, there are 10 cities in which APAs make up the majority of the population. These cities are heavily concentrated in the San Gabriel Valley. Most of the residents are Chinese immigrants who benefit greatly from our fellows’ work of providing much needed in-language support for the cities’ constituents,” Yamasaki continued.
Board Chair Charlie Woo explained that, “Their work ensures that all residents are regularly informed of the community needs, policy changes, and laws/regulations that directly impact them. Without them, many residents would not know how to utilize services like city transportation or emergency aid and assistance, which are essential to daily life. We want to make sure that no citizen in our community is overlooked.”
The graduation marked the culmination of a six-month fellowship, in which CELF fellows, Junteng Wang and Xuan Zhang, were able to leverage their bicultural background and bilingual capabilities to help local government agencies and community organizations with outreach to the Chinese American community. During this time, fellows were able to intern with CAUSE and work on various civic engagement initiatives run by the organization. Fellows provided valuable translation services for voter registration and education web content as well as Easy Voter Guides produced in partnership with the League of Women Voters. Fellows also interned with the City of Alhambra, where they were able to assist and learn under the city’s administrative, housing development, and management departments.
Both Junteng and Xuan highlighted the tremendous amount of experience they were able to gain from the program as well as the gratification they felt from their commitment to servicing the needs of San Gabriel Valley’s immigrant communities.
Junteng shared an encounter she had with an elderly constituent during her time with Alhambra’s city hall. The man was looking for assistance on how to pay a parking violation fee, but was having difficulty understanding the forms needed to process his payments. Wang shared how glad she was that her language capabilities could help a citizen in need.
As a part of their fellowship program, CELF fellows were expected to complete a group outreach proposal on how to better communicate drought and water conservation resources and information to Chinese immigrant communities within the San Gabriel Valley. Their proposal was the main focus of the graduation program.
Through their project, they were able to form valuable partnerships with local agencies such as the Alhambra Groundwater Treatment Plant. Fellows also cited the invaluable support of Thomas Wong, President of the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (SGVMWD) Board of Directors, and Evelyn Reyes, External Affairs Specialist to the SGVMWD.
Over 80% of California is under “extreme” drought as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Given the fact that 15% of water usage and 10% of energy consumption could be saved on an annual basis by providing additional resources and awareness to commercial restaurants in the area, CELF fellows proposed to outreach to an estimated 958 Chinese owned and operated restaurants in the city of Alhambra and 968 Chinese owned and operated restaurants in the city of Monterey Park.
Fellows presented their proposal to attendees: an educational toolbox that is linguistically and culturally accessible for local restaurant owners and managers. The proposed toolbox includes important facts about the drought, cost-effective tips on smart water use, and local government resources available to restaurants. Examples included incorporating water and energy-mindful practices in restaurant operations and offering incentives for swapping out current kitchen equipment with more water and energy efficient equipment to name a few.
Xuan shared that she, “found this project very meaningful because [they did] something that [could] make real impact in the community.”
“We appreciate their efforts in helping to alleviate the serious drought facing California,” praised Thomas Wong, President of the SGVMWD Board of Directors.
The event ended with a certificate presentation by the CAUSE Board of Directors (From left to right: Wen Hong, Kenny Yee, Charlie Woo, Victor King, and CELF fellows).
This program is generously supported by:
JT Tai & Company Foundation