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Red Cross Youth Program Launches in Oakland Chinatown

Red Cross Youth Program Launches in Oakland Chinatown
“The bilingual youth volunteers from the American Red Cross are providing essential preparedness information to our community, especially for the monolingual residents in Oakland.” - Oakland Mayor Jean Quan

In March, the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter launched the Oakland Chinatown Youth for Community Engagement program. Oakland YCE is a bilingual youth volunteer program designed to engage local youth in community service and help build a disaster resilient Oakland Chinatown community.

Roughly one in five adults in the Bay Area is of Asian descent. The Red Cross Bay Area Chapter designed the Oakland YCE program to connect with more than 25,000 Chinatown residents, making disaster and preparedness training available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese. The program aims to reach middle and high schoolers age 14 to 18.

The Oakland Chinatown YCE program was established in partnership with a similar program in San Francisco’s Chinatown, which has been serving the area for 40 years. In San Francisco, a team of volunteer instructors provides preparedness training in several languages as well as first aid and CPR courses in Cantonese and Mandarin. Volunteers help the Chinese community be prepared to respond to emergencies in their homes or workplace.

Oakland Mayor, Jean Quan, attended the launch event for the program and said the goal for Oakland is to meet the California Earthquake Standard within the next three years, a goal which YCE can help the city reach.

“It is essential that Oakland has a preparedness and emergency plan ready when disaster strikes,” said Mayor Quan. “The bilingual youth volunteers from the American Red Cross are providing essential preparedness information to our community, especially for the monolingual residents in Oakland.”

The Red Cross Bay Area Chapter’s Asian Community Preparedness team has been working hard to make the Oakland YCE program a reality.

Michael Wong, the Red Cross Bay Area Asian Community Preparedness Manager, moved to the United States in 1996 from Hong Kong and started volunteering for the Red Cross a year later as a Youth for Community Engagement Leader, Preparedness Presenter, and First Aid Instructor. Michael joined the Red Cross full-time in 2005 to start the Asian Community Preparedness Department.

Michael says community partnerships have helped to make the program a success. YCE in Oakland is made possible by a coalition of community agencies known as the Oakland Chinatown Preparedness Committee (OCPC) which is made up of several members including; Asian Health Services, Department of Human Services - City of Oakland, Family Bridges Inc., Lincoln Square Recreation Center - City of Oakland Office of Parks and Recreation, Oakland Fire Department - CORE program and the Wa Sung Community Service Club.

“The OCPC Committee allows us to share resource and target the bilingual community,” Michael said. “With this shared resource, we realized there are a lot of youth groups but they were not necessarily targeting the bilingual community, that’s when we formed the Oakland Chinatown YCE program. “

The first YCE Oakland event, held on March 16, at the Lincoln Square Recreation Center trained 30 new volunteers and the aim is to bring disaster preparedness, First Aid, and CPR training to schools, fairs, and major events throughout Oakland Chinatown. The team also hopes to create an adopt-a-senior program, where volunteers will help the elderly prepare for disaster, building friendships, and bridging generational gaps.

“We want to connect immigrant youth with homebound Chinese seniors, connecting two populations and generations, Michael said. “Our aim is to prepare and facilitate a resilient community.”

Darren Ly, who grew up in Castro Valley, California, is enthusiastic about the training he recently received to become one of the first volunteers for the YCE program in Oakland Chinatown. He is eager to use his skills to give back to his community.

“By joining the Oakland YCE program, I am able to educate elders and residents living in Chinatown on disaster preparedness and ways to stay safe in a disaster,” Darren said.

Kayi Lau is a Red Cross Youth Preparedness Specialist for Asian Community Preparedness who moved to the U.S. from Hong Kong when she was 12.

Kayi joined the American Red Cross “Youth for Chinese Elderly” Program at Lincoln High School in San Francisco when she was 15 and through the program was able to gain a leadership role and become a certified First Aid and CPR Instructor. After graduating from high school, Kayi continued to volunteer for the YCE program. After graduating from UCSC, Kayi applied to the AmeriCorps Program at the American Red Cross to supervise the YCE program in San Francisco and Oakland where she has worked for the past year.

“For multilingual youth, this program is a great volunteer opportunity, they can improve their English skills and build confidence while helping in their community,” Kayi said.

Interested in joining the Oakland Chinatown YCE Program?

More than 20 East Bay Schools are part of Oakland Chinatown YCE. Come out to our next training scheduled for April 20th 2013. For more information, contact

Related Press Release: Youth Program Launches in Oakland Chinatown