Media Spotlight on the Fund Casts Light on the Hidden Needs of Korean Americans
David Chun, a board member and long-time supporter, recently told the Chronicle of Philanthropy why it is so important to him to give back to the Asian American community through the Asian Pacific Fund. David's story beautifully captures the Fund's vision and the meaning behind what we do. He says:
'As an immigrant myself, I saw how our family struggled and recognize that other people do too.'
Korean-Americans may be regarded in general as an up-by-the-bootstraps group, he adds, but such stereotypes obscure the needs of many Asian immigrants—and the importance of philanthropy to support them.
Indeed, Koreans are often perceived as driven and successful, but they are a particularly high risk population, according to Korean Community Center of the East Bay's (KCCEB) executive director June Lee. They are more linguistically and culturally isolated than most other Asian ethnicities. While 1 in 3 Asians in California are limited English proficient, nearly half of the Korean population speak limited English and struggle with the associated challenges of isolation.
Heona Lee, executive director of Korean American Community Services (KACS) in the South Bay, says, "Koreans tend to be cohesive, but very insular, which makes them suffer more when they go through adversity or major change." KACS builds community and acts as a navigator for their clients, many of whom are new immigrants unfamiliar with the social services systems, benefits and other resources they may be eligible for.
Both organizations see healthcare access as one of their community's biggest needs. Among Asian ethnicities, Koreans are reportedly the most psychologically distressed, and have the highest lung cancer death rates in California. Mental health care is another critical need, with 65 percent of Korean women in the Bay Area having been exposed to domestic violence.
Yet, Koreans have the highest uninsurance rate among Asians in California—and nationwide, and are second only to Latinos overall.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), launching on October 1, extends access to health insurance to 2 million uninsured Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APIs), over a third of whom are in California.
While both organizations see this as a boon, they are bracing for an onslaught of community members seeking help, and fear they lack the resources to meet all the need. Government funding is limited—community organizations also need support from donors and private funders. The Asian Pacific Fund is currently exploring ways we can support our affiliates, which include KCCEB and KACS, who face these gaps in funding.
"This is a historically critical moment," says June. "Koreans and other Asians can really benefit right now, but we need a coordinated community response to this challenging and unprecedented movement."
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