Wanna is APANO’s Transportation Coordinator. Outside of work, Wanna is also a community leader. Recently, she and a group of Chinese parents led a local grassroots effort that provided 22,000 face masks and counting for frontline workers. Wanna’s work inspired many of us at APANO, and we hope her leadership will inspire you too. Donate to their group by paypaling [email protected]gmail.com.
Hi Wanna, how has COVID-19 impacted you?
My family in China already experienced what we’re experiencing here in America. It has been like playing a soccer game. Chinese people were playing the first part of game. Now other countries people in the world are playing the last part of the game. As Chinese immigrants, we played as centre forward. We played the whole game with our loving heart.
That’s a really beautiful metaphor for what this has been like for many immigrants who first watched their families face the pandemic and are now facing it here too. Is that what motivated you to do the work you are now?
Yes, in January, in the Chinese Community – we already have a lot of people we organize, get donation, and buying masks and sending to China. So when COVID-19 hit in America, we kind of had a feeling we need to do the same thing for Americans.
The hard part was needing money to buy it for community. No money, can’t buy it. It’s really important so workers can protect themselves and lower the hurt and transmission, but we feel scared to reach out to our own community because of being Chinese. But everyone was really connecting and ready, we want to do this to protect the community.
So there was a feeling of fear around how the community would react. I’m glad it seems like you still banded together to reach out and do this work. That’s so important.
Yes, because beginning of the American breakout, people were suffering from racism. So when we heard this we felt really bad, what we want to say is, “We are immigrants – so when things happen in China we will support them, but America is our home too.” So we want to support our communities and frontline workers from America. And, we want to reduce how people see Chinese people through racism, or reduce people calling it Wuhan Virus.
We try to do this to support community and everyone else in the city, to change how people see the Chinese. Which I feel like that’s important to do. So a lot of parents, we worked together. I felt that I need to be a leader – to do something, so I say okay I can organize. Trust me, I can do it.
You definitely did. You raised over $14,000 with the Chinese Parents group to purchase 22,000 masks for healthcare and Trimet workers in Portland. What has taking on that leadership role meant to you?
I think leadership is when things happen. I feel like people actually trust me so I try to do what I can do for the community. For long term work people are impressed in the community, because I work with APANO they trust me and trust APANO. So leadership is trust.
In the light of API Heritage month, what does this month mean to you?
I feel like for Chinese people it’s really powerful for our community. For immigrants we feel like people sometimes don’t care, and just want to protect themselves. But, when things happen – the Chinese community’s power is supporting each other and being a really strong community, actually.
This month we can make it to remember this crisis time and what people need – to feel impressed with the community and see support of the community. It’s a time to remember how we care about each other which is really important.
Wanna’s Call to Action
Wear your masks and educate your family as to why wearing a mask is important.
This one action can show solidarity for and take care of your community!
As COVID-19 continues to impact our community, our resolve for our work only deepens. We invite you to join us in #CourageDuringCOVID and make a gift in support of the APANO Communities United Fund to help us continue to protect one another. Give Now.
This blog post is part of the API Womxn in Leadership series to commemorate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This series is also under the banner of #CourageDuringCOVID, a larger project highlighting API Oregonians doing meaningful and radical work to protect one another. Learn more about our Courage During COVID series.
This programming content brought to you by APANO Communities United Fund, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization.