By Jason J. Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
InterIm CDA has been a part of Chinatown since 1969, offering housing assistance to those in need. With a vulnerable population to serve during the pandemic, InterIm, moved quickly to ensure that it continued serving low-income, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and immigrant and refugee communities. As with so many other organizations which serve the public, the Chinatown-based organization made an effort in determining what was most needed during a time with not many definitive answers.
The pivot in assistance began in late March when InterIm began a grocery delivery program to help seniors and low-income families that usually sought assistance by coming to its food bank. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mandate by King County to stay at home and shut down businesses except for essential services forced many low-income and elderly to stay at home, which cut off assistance from the likes of InterIm. However, the organization mobilized to go to their community. In the International District, it helped nine apartment buildings of roughly 270 units by providing bags of groceries. It also partnered with the Asian Counseling and Referral Services in these efforts to ensure those in need of food and supplies were taken care of when the stay at home orders were issued in the spring.
Through this touchpoint, InterIm was able to contact people and inquired as to other ways they could help in this uncertain time. The concern was how isolation would affect many of the elderly population when they were dependent on the community, including the personal, daily interaction with others.
“We had to determine how to be connected with community members,” said Executive Director Pradeepta Upadhyay of the conversion over to a more online-based outreach.
“We used the WeChat App on a weekly basis,” informed Deputy Director Tom Im. The Chinese-made multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app was developed by Tencent. InterIm organized weekly physical fitness videos for senior citizens to continue to engage with them. They also conduct physical wellness checks on seniors to ensure that they were fine throughout this time of isolation.
The pivot in assistance began in late March when InterIm began a grocery delivery program to help seniors and low-income families that usually sought assistance by coming to its food bank.
Employment assistance has been a driving issue during the COVID-19 shutdown as many within the community have been affected by the shutdown and closure of businesses. With many people being laid off, InterIm helped navigate the process of obtaining employment benefits. English is a second-language to many within the community and InterIm has taken the task of providing interpreting services for those that need it. In certain situations, community members are in need of computers and help with applying for benefits or searching for jobs.
Another component of InterIm’s work during this time is to assist with school-age children. Due to the pandemic, schools were forced to go to at-home schooling, which created obstacles for a certain section of the community’s population. According to Im, InterIm distributed approximately 200 packets of educational learning for school-age children within the community to ensure that they do not fall behind at a time when education has been compromised. As the new school year begins, InterIm is making sure its community members have some form of internet access for virtual learning, a laptop, and access to school materials. Slow internet speed is also a concern for many that need to attend school sessions online. As it’s still unknown when children will go back to live learning, ensuring a dedicated internet connection is important so that they don’t fall behind.
In addition to food delivery and education assistance, InterIm has facilitated the delivery of masks to the most vulnerable people. It has also used the time to ensure that social isolation has not affected people physically and mentally.
Without in-person interaction, fundraising efforts have been set aside for this year.
“We had to cancel our gala,” said Upadhyay. The annual gala is a source of community celebration and also a driving force for fundraising as the event includes an auction. The event was set for April and InterIm was estimating approximately 400 guests. But, through resilience, the organization has found other ways to remain in contact with its supporters. “In the last four months, we have elevated our publicity work via social media,” said Upadhyay as the organization sends out information via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
For more information, visit interimcda.org.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.