Tzu Chi Medical Foundation Joins Hands With APIAHF to Protect the Health of AAPI Communities

TIMA  |  December 31, 2022
Tzu Chi staff and members of APIAHF took a group photo in front of the Daai Ophthalmology and Dental Medical Vehicle. Photo/Meijuan Guo

Written by: Antai Lee
Translated by: Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by: Yingying Lee, Andrea Barkley

On December 9, 2022, 25 board members and staff of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), headquartered in Oakland, California, met with the CEO of Tzu Chi USA, Debra Boudreaux

Accompanied by the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, lawyer Tim Chang, they visited Tzu Chi’s Medical Center in South El Monte and the headquarters campus in San Dimas.

Founded in 1986, APIAHF is one of the largest and oldest health advocacy organizations that work with AA & NH/PI (Asian American and Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities). It has also been a collaboration partner of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), receiving substantial federal funding. 

During the pandemic, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation actively participated in the Forging Partnerships project and Engaging AA and NHPI Communities in Adult Vaccination  (EVAC) organized by APIAHF.

Expand Partnerships During the Pandemic

On January 21, 2020, the United States government announced the first case of the novel coronavirus. The CDC then launched a series of response strategies. In addition, APIAHF, as a health advocacy organization, actively launched initiatives to mobilize communities and organize projects to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders during the COVID-19 pandemic and its continuous spread and impact across the United States.

During the three years of the pandemic, Tzu Chi and APIAHF signed a cooperation agreement totaling $312,500 (USD); this partnership emphasized that through close cooperation with community partners, it works to break down language barriers for the Asian community, equitably spread medical knowledge related to COVID-19 and vaccination opportunities. 

Together they strived to give a voice to marginalized groups so that Asian Americans could confidently make informed decisions and fight for fair treatment for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Dr. Stephen Denq, Executive Director of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, introduced the mission of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and the various work and services it has carried out. Then Tzu Chi’s project and clinic medical teams presented the achievements of the project cooperation with APIAHF and shared experiences and challenges in medical operations, law, and Asian human rights advocacy.

Dr. Stephen Denq also shared a short story about his joining Tzu Chi. At that time, a patient traveled thousands of miles from Hawaii, which surprised him. The patient said he felt at ease only because the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation provided Chinese services. Since its establishment, Tzu Chi’s medical services have attached importance to multilingual services; Tzu Chi offers medical services in English, Cantonese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Spanish, ensuring that every patient can find a suitable medical service in Tzu Chi’s comprehensive language services.

Strengthening Cooperation and Development Into the Future

During the pandemic, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation continued to take action. Colleagues and volunteers kept pursuing their missions. They continued to coordinate with and deliver various medical supplies to the hands of medical staff; various medical centers and mobile clinics assisted the community and patients vaccinated against COVID-19. Since vaccines became available in December 2020, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation has vaccinated about 7,400 people and screened more than 3,700 people for COVID-19.

Tzu Chi Medical Foundation also distributed pandemic prevention kits and provided a large amount of personal protective equipment to the community through community activities and drive-thru models. 

Furthermore, during the two-year project, they organized educational COVID-19 webinars and translated the content into Chinese. Tzu Chi aimed to help Chinese residents in the community to obtain accurate and easy-to-understand information equitably.

After the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11, Tzu Chi immediately contacted the Mountain View School District in the South El Monte area and the Valle Lindo School District to partner up on ten vaccination campaigns for students and parents.

All the participants of APIAHF visited the medical center of El Monte and the Daai Ophthalmology and Dental Mobile Clinic. Emily Wasek, manager of the APIAHF development office, was adopted from China when she was young. She said, “As the first generation of college students in my family engaged in health equity work, I have witnessed too many people struggle for survival during this process. It is a story of struggling to thrive.” However, she was deeply impressed by Tzu Chi’s mission and the work it has done because Tzu Chi represents an equal and affordable mission, providing fair optometric, dental, and medical service for patients regardless of their socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or background. She was pleased to cooperate with the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and hopes to continue to develop and strengthen the partnership with Tzu Chi in the future.

Inspiring Love and Compassion

Juliet Choi, the chairman and CEO of APIAHF, has a long history with Tzu Chi and has visited Tzu Chi's Jing Si Hall in Hualien. Photo/Meijuan Guo
Members of the board of directors of APIAHF spoke enthusiastically. Photo/Meijuan Guo

The chairman and CEO of APIAHF, Juliet Choi, has a long history with Tzu Chi. In the early years, she formed a deep friendship with Debra Boudreaux, the CEO of Tzu Chi USA, at the American Red Cross and visited Tzu Chi Jing Si Hall in Hualien. She has seen Tzu Chi in many countries; this was her first visit to Tzu Chi in the United States.

Tzu Chi sincerely cares for the unhoused and the forgotten, and continues to attract and advocate for more people to join their team of caring volunteers. This is really admirable; I look forward to more cooperation with Tzu Chi in the future.

Through this face-to-face visit, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and APIAHF develop a deeper mutual understanding and trust. The APIAHF team fully affirmed the achievements of the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone hoped to have more opportunities to work together in the future.

Tim Chang, Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, said: “The two projects we have cooperated with APIAHF in the past two years, one is to assist in the investigation of medical distribution; the other was to provide medical funding for spreading COVID-19 related knowledge, such that we can provide advocacy about personal and family health to our American community and Latin community. Our cooperation has been enjoyable, and we hope to strengthen our partnership in the future.”

Working Together for the Benefit of All

Junqiang Wen, Executive Vice President of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, introduced Tzu Chi's Daai Mobile Clinic. Photo/Meijuan Guo
APIAHF board members were happy to cooperate with Tzu Chi. Photo/Meijuan Guo

When Tzu Chi enters a crowd, we leave a mark. Therefore, the Venerable Master hoped the whole world would develop righteous and virtuous morals. Through our work, Tzu Chi spreads our mission of good deeds, bringing the truth, kindness, and beauty of Tzu Chi to all people who spread our good works in their networks.

Tzu Chi Medical Foundation and APIAHF join hands to bring blessings and love to the world. The anticipated long-term cooperation in the future will allow these two organizations to complement one another, thus promoting the sustainable development of both parties and helping more communities find good health and happiness.  They look forward to maintaining community residents’ health and contributing to the US pandemic prevention.

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