Update and Message from Our CEO Thoai Nguyen
April 27th, 2020
In October of last year, I made the decision that the theme for SEAMAAC’s work in 2020 would be Fight For Our Future . While it was not meant to be anything more than a call to action on our civic engagement and census work, it has proven to be prophetic as our communities are now literally fighting for our future. As we approach week 7 of the COVID-19 emergency, I want to reach out to express my deepest gratitude to all those who have stood with us on the frontline to address the rising tide of anti-Asian racism and the growing problem of food insecurities in our community.
The Trump administration’s incompetence and gross mismanagement of the COVID-19 response has plunged our nation into a state of widespread illness, grief, and instability with heightened xenophobia and racism. The systemic issues our communities have always faced are now amplified and as we all predicted, has further exacerbated the inequities and privilege gaps within our society. The negative effects caused by COVID-19 are disproportionately more devastating for those who are people of color, immigrants, and low-income.
The health and safety, access to resources, and livelihood of our communities are all at great risk. Our communities face unprecedented loss during this crisis and undoubtedly after. Many small family and immigrant-owned businesses that serve as vibrant community beacons may be lost forever, while corporate owned businesses have received the vast majority of the bailout funds.
Asian American community members have become scapegoats for Trump’s COVID-19 negligence and live under constant duress of potential verbal or physical assault. Black Americans now face an unfathomably horrific reality of whether to wear a mask and risk death by police or not wear a mask and risk death by coronavirus. Trump has also ordered a halt on immigration by suspending permanent residency visas, as in green cards. These actions are clear attempts to shift blame and cast immigrants as the “villains” within American society. We as a unified community must never allow this to happen in words nor in deed.
Our work at SEAMAAC is ever evolving to address the changing needs of our communities. We are committed to not only serve as an agency of health, community and educational services but as an agency of economic and social justice. As you may have seen through our social media, SEAMAAC now operates a Hunger Relief program , offering free food to families and individuals on Mondays and Thursdays at our main office in partnership with the city. In addition, SEAMAAC is delivering groceries to vulnerable clients on Tuesdays and Fridays. Over the past 6 weeks, SEAMAAC has distributed and delivered more than 4,000 boxes/bags of food and supplies.
On April 20th , SEAMAAC in partnership with South Philly Barbacoa and Chef Aziza Young, began a prepared meals program to offer 200 meals Mondays-Fridays to families. Beginning the week of May 4th, SEAMAAC will ramp up our efforts and collaborate with Broad Street Ministry and Project HOME to offer 1,200 meals per day from Mondays through Fridays – the location of this meal site will be announced soon.
While our hunger relief efforts have been at the forefront of our work this past month and a half, SEAMAAC’s regular programs continue to evolve to deliver effective and impactful services and programs to the communities we serve. Please visit our website's program pages to find out more information or follow us on social media to receive updates.
On behalf of all of us at SEAMAAC, and the many constituents supported by our work, I want to thank you for helping us provide crucial supplies and services to immigrant, refugee and other marginalized communities in Philadelphia during this time of COVID-19. While these times have exposed the appalling disparities within our country, they have also highlighted the love and compassion that exists in us as people. I want to recognize the brave and generous volunteers from the community who have stepped up to assist our Hunger Relief team, serving their neighbors with dignity and respect.
We are fortunate to have many new and longtime partners, including the Share Food Program, City of Philadelphia, Philabundance, Philadelphia DHS, Sharing Excess, American Heart Association, NSC, APIAHF, Juntos, Puentes De Salud, Broad Street Ministry, Bok, Jefferson University, Liberty Resources, Inc., Sabbatical Beauty, Caring for Friends, South Philly Barbacoa, Project Home, Bethany Indonesian Church, Wurzak Hotel Group, Sew Mask Philly, Nguyen Ho Photography, Matt Stanley Photography, and Weaving a Karen Future, Philadelphia Police Department, and the Philadelphia Commerce Department , whose generosity and collaboration has allowed our work to expand to serve even more folks in need.
We are also immensely grateful to our funders who include The Barra Foundation, Philadelphia Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Philadelphia Health Partnership, Independence Public Media Foundation, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, Wells Fargo, Samuel Fels Fund, The Hive at SpringPoint, PHL COVID-19 and United Way of GPSNJ. Special thank you to the generous donors of our GoFundMe campaign for AAPI Elders.
While we do not yet know the total impact and outcome of COVID-19, I can tell you with absolute certainty, that if we continue to create light and manifest hope by staying united and supporting each other, we will be able to handle the challenges as they come and move forward together. The future is not yet written, and as we stand at the precipice of history, we can, through our words and deeds today, write a new chapter of our history together, one based on love, compassion, and unflinching justice and equity for all.
In love and struggle,
Dear SEAMAAC Community:
As all of you are aware by now, the situation of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has evolved into global pandemic status. While SEAMAAC leadership has been cautious to not play into overreaction and panic, we feel it is our responsibility to be practical and solutions-focused, but above all we want to take care of you and the communities we aim to serve. As the terrain for precautionary measures are changing on a daily basis, we at SEAMAAC are putting into place contingency plans that will be enacted if we find ourselves in a worse-case scenario.
For now, however, SEAMAAC is moving forward with the following adjustments to our daily operations, and program administration:
1. SEAMAAC’s offices are closed to the public but will remain open for emergency services and as a point of information referral for clients with limited English proficiency. 2.. All programs, events, and in-person meetings involving 10 or more people are cancelled/postponed, or use teleconferencing options, until further notice. This includes our Elders Gathering, ESL and Digital Literacy, etc.
3. SEAMAAC's OST program Hip Hop Heritage is closed until further notice.
4. TCM services are now done remotely via telephone and teleconferencing.
5. SEAMAAC is expediting the purchase of hardware and preparing the technologies needed to allow agency-wide telecommuting (work from home/remotely) in a worse-case scenario.
6. SEAMAAC has instituted a contingency sick-leave policy for staff members. This policy will cover all staff including full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees. If a staff member becomes sick, SEAMAAC will offer full-paid leave (for the hours in your most current work assignment) for up to 10 work/business days. Additional sick leave will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
7. Please communicate with the HR Director and your supervisor in the event that you must take time off to care for a family member or if an early dismissal/school closure renders you and your family without proper childcare.
8. Per the recommendations of CDC and WHO, any SEAMAAC personnel returning from travel outside the country, is strenuously advised to self-quarantine for 14 calendar days, and as soon as convenient after their return, the staff should contact their nearest hospital and request to be tested for COVID-19.
For additional and up-to-date resources, please consider following these web-based resources:
Center For Disease Control (CDC) Link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Philadelphia Department of Public Health Link: https://www.phila.gov/departments/department-of-public-health/
World Health Organization (WHO) Link: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen
While SEAMAAC has decided to close certain programs and services, and allow staff the option of telecommuting (work from home/remotely), please keep in mind that the individuals and communities we aim to serve, are socially, economically and linguistically marginalized, therefore needs SEAMAAC's services and programs during this pandemic more than ever. To this end, SEAMAAC leadership will work with individual program and staff to put a remote plan of service in place - for example, while SEAMAAC has cancelled the Elders Gathering, SEAMAAC will endeavor to administer check-in calls to each seniors and other vulnerable clients three times per week for the duration of the pandemic to ensure that elderly clients remain healthy and well-informed, and address any essential needs they may have (grocery shopping, medication, fellowship, etc.). I would be interested in other ideas you may have for creative remote program/service delivery.
Finally, as we have witnessed a rise in incidents of xenophobia and anti-Asian racism during the past few weeks, and now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we must assume that more people will use it as an excuse to express and act out their racist beliefs. As people of Asian ancestry represents more than 50% of SEAMAAC staff and constituents, and more than 90% of SEAMAAC’s constituents are from marginalized communities who have borne the brunt of blame and scapegoating, we recommend that you exercise greater personal safety precaution in public spaces, and to report any incidents of verbal or physical attacks to the Philadelphia Police Department and to SEAMAAC. And if you are a friend to SEAMAAC but not a person of Asian descent or from a marginalized community, now is the time to practice empathy and compassion, and be vocal and supportive ally, in taking action to support the communities we serve.
Although it is our strenuous recommendation to practice “social distancing” during the pandemic, I want to reiterate my absolute commitment of support to you and your family as we face this together. My office, phone and email, will maintain an open door policy should you have recommendations, questions or concerns.
Yours In Solidarity,
Thoai Nguyen, CEO of SEAMAAC