Jackie Bong Wright

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First APA Community/Health Fair in the Capital: A Big Success

By Jackie Bong-Wright

The first Asian Pacific American Community/Health Fair, held on November 14, 2001, at the District of Columbia’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, was a big success, proclaimed Mr. Greg Chen, Director of the DC Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (OAPIA).
Mrs. Ellen M. Yung-Fatah, Manager for Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ Asian Pacific Islander (API) Initiative at the DC Department of Health (DOH), was one of the Fair’s organizing forces, coordinating public and private agencies and community-based organizations in this effort. With transportation provided by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the help of good weather, more than 500 APA members turned out for the full day event – the largest event ever for the APA in collaboration with the DC government.
The event ended in the evening with community dialogues with Mayor Williams
in his third annual Asian Town Hall meeting. Directors and senior staff from more than 14 District agencies also participated.

Public and Private Partnership

This year’s Health Fair theme was “Improving Access to Services and Enhancing Quality of Life.” It provided a forum for DC government agencies to showcase their accomplishments under the Mayor’s API Initiative. All had been working closely with the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs and the Asian community organizations since late June to plan the event.
Dr. Ivan Walks, Chief Health Officer of the District of Columbia and DOH Director, a physician trained in neuropsychiatry and trans-cultural psychiatry, understands the difficulties encountered by many Asian immigrants, with their limited English skills, when accessing government services. So, when Mayor Williams announced his initiatives to improve access to services for the Asian community in his 2000 Asian Town Hall Meeting, Dr. Walks and Theodore Gordon, DOH Chief Operating Officer, drafted Mrs. Yung-Fatah, who had been working with the District government for more than 18 years, to lead this challenging project.
As chairperson for the DC Asian Pacific American Council, Mrs.Yung-Fatah advises her own and other District government agencies on how best to reach the Asian community and helps recruit APAs into the DC government workforce.
Her efforts are paying off. Materials translated into Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese have increased to more than 35 from fewer than five a year ago. The DOH has 33 APA employees – a 33% increase from last year – from more than 10 Asian heritages. The DOH organized activities in May to celebrate APA Heritage Month, including the first department-wide celebration for employees. For several DOH programs, formal partnerships have been established with Asian community organizations, and the Addiction, Prevention and Recovery Administration is committed to awarding $100,000 to Asian community organizations for a substance abuse prevention program for Asian youth. The DOH is also committed to improving access to health services for the Asian community, according to Dr. Walks.

Workshops, Exhibition Booths, Screening, Immunizations

The Fair featured 10 workshops for businesses, seniors, families with young children, women, and youth entities as the DC Public Schools, the Asian Service Center, and the George Washington University Health Counseling Program. Interpreters helped participants with limited English skills, working with speakers of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. A clown entertained children. Librarians conducted tours of the library so attendees could learn the library’s rich resources.
At the lower level of the Library, more than 24 DC government agencies and the federal Social Security Administration set up booths. Department of Human Services employees told families with young children about subsidized childcare services. The Department of Parks and Recreation explained to young people the extracurricular activities it offers. The Department of Employment Services (DOES) set up an unemployment claim application table to help those impacted by the 9-11 tragedy fill out forms. Other departments explained employment opportunities. The Department of Housing and Community Development provided valuable information on the rights of tenants.
In the Auditorium, there were free flu shots for seniors and those with chronic illnesses such as heart disease and asthma. Many participants took advantage of screening for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol. Children were tested for their blood lead levels. A Mom-Baby van provided education and free screening. Employees from Project Wish and staff from Boat People SOS discussed the importance of breast and cercival cancer screening. Dr. Shi-Hua Wu, chairperson of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Acupuncture, demonstrated Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques.
The “safe house” fire engine and an ambulance from the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services caught the curious eyes of many pedestrians. The “Weed-and-Feed” van from the Metropolitan Police Department offered a glimpse of new drug prevention strategies. The Fannie Mae van provided information and hope to many prospective homeowners.

Town Hall Meeting With Mayor Williams

Before Mayor Williams’ Town Hall meeting, participants were treated to Asian food and entertained with performances by Mongol Yurt Heritage Association, Tsunami Theatre and Hung Tao Choy Mei Kung Fu Academy. The audience then heard the Mayor describe his commitment to the APA community and his administration’s many accomplishments in its efforts to provide the community with full services. He said he had increased the budget for that Office and the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, and had made the office and the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs permanent. He said his API Initiative had increased its activities, and showed his continuing support for the DC Asian Pacific American Council by announcing the appointment of Dr. Natwar Gandhi, the Chief Financial Officer for the DC government, as its honorary chairperson.
The Mayor and his 14 agency directors took questions from the audience. Answers will be posted on the Mayor’s web site.
Finally, Mayor Williams presented outstanding community service awards to Mrs. Yung-Fatah; Mr. Songbae Lee, area director of Korean American Coalition; Ms. Hien Vu, program director of Boat People SOS-DC Chapter; Mr. Jate Pan, director of Asian Service Center; and Mr. Duang Wang, chairperson of Chinatown Steering Committee and “Mayor of Chinatown.” Mr. John Tinpe, Chairperson of the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, joined with Mayor Williams in presenting an award of appreciation to Dr. Ivan Walks for his commitment to improving access to services for the Asian community.
One of speakers, Ms. Francey Lim Youngberg, President of Youngberg & Associates, a long time community advocate, praised Mayor Williams and the agency directors, especially Dr. Walks, for their commitment to the Asian community. She encouraged agencies to form meaningful partnerships with Asian community organizations by providing them the resources to support a community that is traditionally underserved due to cultural and language barriers.