As youth return to schools across the country and sign up for extracurricular activities, hundreds of students in the San Francisco area will choose to teach preparedness skills to the elderly with the American Red Cross.
The Youth for Chinese Elderly (YCE) program trains youth from nine high schools in the San Francisco area to teach Chinese-speaking seniors how to prepare for emergencies.
In a city where one in five adults is of Asian descent and over 30 percent of public school students are Chinese, the program capitalizes on its unique demographics to better prepare residents for a disaster.
Not only does the program make the San Francisco-area safer, but it also meets the social needs of Chinese immigrants. The program helps young Chinese immigrants connect with their peers, improve their English skills and build leadership and presentation skills. For elderly Chinese, the program delivers preparedness information in their language and connects them to the community.
“The youth are kind of like a motivator for them to get engaged to talk,” said Ka Yi Lau, a former club member and current AmeriCorps volunteer working in the Bay Area Red Cross chapter.
“They think they are alone,” said Kenny Chong, president of the Balboa High School YCE. “We tell them they are not.”
Each year about 550 students participate in the program and make monthly visits to senior homes to teach residents about disaster preparedness, how to create a disaster supply kit and to practice key English vocabulary words they may need to use during an emergency.
There is a highly competitive application process for YCE, said Michael Wong, Asian community preparedness manager for the Bay Area Chapter. Sometimes Wong will receive 200 applications for 20 spots in the club.
Many Chinese parents urge their children to join the club because it will beef up their college applications, help them learn respect for their elders and how to communicate with people like their grandparents.
But for Lau, the main draw of the program is simply an “opportunity to get to know more about the Red Cross.”