By Ruth Bayang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Hundreds of volunteers have signed up to support a Northern California organization to escort elderly Asian Americans through their neighborhoods—after a string of attacks against them in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Compassion in Oakland, a group founded by Latino activist Jacob Azevedo, has more than 300 volunteers to escort fearful elders on walks and errands. Azevedo said he was compelled to take action after learning about back-to-back attacks in his community. One took place on Jan. 31, when a 91-year-old Asian American man was shoved to the ground in Oakland’s Chinatown—the attack was just one of many that have occurred in the past year.
On its website, Compassion in Oakland provides a form that allows users to request a chaperone to walk with them, but if someone needs a chaperone within 15 minutes, they can call or text a number to request more immediate support.
“We strive to provide the Oakland Chinatown Community with a resource for promoting safety and community,” Compassion in Oakland’s mission statement says. “We aim to embrace the often forgotten, underserved, and vulnerable. We promote compassion, not indifference, unity as opposed to divisiveness. Fostering a more caring and safer Oakland for all.”
Azevedo told CNN that he hopes the group will soon be able to collaborate with law enforcement to help keep the community safe.
On Feb. 13, Compassion in Oakland had a soft launch, with the organization posting a photo on Instagram of 10 volunteers standing outside of the Oakland Public Library’s Asian Branch in Pacific Renaissance Plaza.
“First day with feet on the streets!” the caption read. “Thanks to our first group of volunteers! It felt good to be in the community and working together. Can’t wait to do it again!”
In a separate initiative, the Oakland Chinatown Coalition is organizing a volunteer foot patrol to join its existing Chinatown Ambassador Program efforts. They’re calling it “community strolling”—which entails volunteers passing out “red envelopes” to help build relationships with community members and visitors by cleaning up trash, removing graffiti from businesses and murals, keeping sidewalks clean, and more.
Ruth can be reached at email@example.com.