Life & Discovery
Asian American Center Comes to Frederick:
- 23 September, 2011 MoJo: Dominique Marsalek
“We should make good use of our freedom and do the right things: serve, promote understanding, respect each other, and try to understand each other.”- Elizabeth Chung, director of Asian American Center of Frederick.
Local resident Elizabeth Chung is the director of the newly named Asian American Center of Frederick, an offspring of her already established nonprofit, Life and Discovery. Located at the Bernard Brown Community Center on the north end of Frederick, this center is an evolution of the learning institute known as Life and Discovery. The evolving mission now incorporates a specific vision: fluid integration of the Asian American Community into the Frederick community.
Chung immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong over 40 years ago. Despite the amount of time that has passed, she is still able to recount precise examples of what inspired her to make cross-cultural communication a focal point of her career. In Hong Kong, her father and grandfather provided free medical care to those in need. When she immigrated in the 1970s with her family, her father was very ill upon arrival. He was unable to receive medical insurance because of pre-existing conditions and did not have enough financial need to qualify for free or reduced cost medical care. Despite having acquired a VISA, he was forced to return to China to seek care and died shortly afterwards.
Chung recounts another story of a Cambodian couple she met in her work with immigrants:
“I have known a Cambodian couple who took their baby to the emergency room for care but couldn’t communicate with the doctors, they ended up leaving, and the baby died the next day.”
Chung finishes the story stating that she feels “no child or person should have to die due to language barriers.” Although Chung describes Frederick as a wonderful place with rich history and plenty of public services for those in need, she has found “disparity issues in health services, educational services, and job services.” The primary reason, according to Chung, is language and cultural barriers. These barriers are exactly the reason the Asian American Center now exists, a center that seeks to “enhance community services through improving access and advocacy” as well as empower the Asian American Community through education and enrich the Frederick community through multi-cultural events and programs.
The center utilizes interpreters, provides community based health education at local events, educates new citizens of public policy, oversees several state based AmeriCorps programs, and seeks to overcome cultural barriers through community language classes and involvement in local events. Ideally, Chung would love to see the center more involved with downtown Frederick in order to provide a space for Asian art, food, and culture within Frederick’s growing urban scene.
Melting Pot — Helping new residents settle in
Nicholas C. Stern
Originally published March 04, 2009
A local nonprofit and the Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area are teaming up to help an increasing numbers of refugees, primarily from Myanmar, formerly Burma, settle in the Frederick area, adapt and find work.
From 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, Lutheran Social Services will host a refugee and immigrant open house at the offices of LIFE and Discovery, a local educational corporation, at 1 W. Second St. in Frederick . The phone number is 301-694-6838.
The event will mark the kickoff of a collaboration between the two groups, which will bring a caseworker with Lutheran Social Services to LIFE and Discovery’s office each Monday, said Larrie Warren, director of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area.
That group receives referrals from the U.S. Department of State to settle refugees from around the world in the United States by helping them obtain ID cards and access to social services, housing and employment.
The idea arose a few months ago, when an ad hoc group of education officials, local Myanmar pastors, members from the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees and others started meeting to discuss the future of local refugees, Warren said.
While Warren didn’t know the exact number of refugees, the local Myanmar population — many of whom are ethnic Chin and are persecuted for their Christian beliefs in Myanmar — could be around a couple of hundred.
The figure is growing, as a result of secondary migration taking place — that is, when refugees, mostly from Texas, find relatives living in Frederick and move here to join them, Warren said.
The group, which loosely calls itself Burmese Concerns, was finding it more difficult to get work in the area, as well as how to provide other services for this community, he said.
Elizabeth Chung, executive director of LIFE and Discovery, then offered a space, complete with computers and Internet access, for a Lutheran Social Services case worker to visit regularly.
The caseworker, Chan Thuii, is an ethnic Chin and knows many in the local community, Warren said.
“It’s sort of working out real nice,” he said.
The Frederick County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People joined other NAACP groups from across the state in Baltimore to protest a New York Post cartoon at the center of a recent national debate.
The cartoon, which showed police shooting an ape with a caption stating “I guess they’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” shared space on the page with a photo of President Barack Obama signing a stimulus bill.
Members of the local NAACP joined about 100 others last Thursday as they delivered a letter to Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Post, asking the company to fire the cartoonist, the editor-in-chief and to increase diversity in the newsroom.
Many people saw the cartoon as a call to murder the president, said Guy Djoken, president of the local chapter of the NAACP.
International Day for Women
Sunday is the International Day for Women, and Frederick Interfaith and Frederick Section of the National Council for Jewish Women will present “Building Bridges of Understanding: Video and Discussion.”
The event, which will include a video presentation that features brief explanations of 11 different religions, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Unity Church in Frederick .
A discussion about the video and the beliefs and customs of people with different faiths will follow.
Area talk show host hopes to improve nonprofit’s reach
Originally published December 13, 2008
By Nicholas C. Stern
About two years ago, Maya Boston-Coiner had Elizabeth Chung, the executive director of LIFE & Discovery, on her NBC 25 television talk show, “Maya Talk.”
Among other topics, they discussed the local educational nonprofit’s efforts to promote minority health, and Boston-Coiner was intrigued.
“We hit it off,” Boston-Coiner said. “She’s a little piece of dynamite.”
Soon, Chung started asking Boston-Coiner to help in some of LIFE & Discovery’s efforts and she agreed.
On Nov. 22, Boston-Coiner, who is of Cherokee ancestry, helped Chung organize a meet and greet for local Native Americans in New Market .
Boston-Coiner also gathered donations Nov. 28 for LIFE & Discovery’s “gift bags for the homeless” project, which supplies homeless people with toiletries and other necessary supplies.
Next year, Boston-Coiner wants to organize a daylong “corporate makeover” for unemployed women to teach them how to write a r?sum?, and how to dress for and conduct interviews, she said.
In the summer, she wants to set up a “circle of 100 women” event where women can have a full day to address their mind, body and spirit.
The day will include a sweat lodge, a Chinese tea party, and Indian and Salsa dancing, among other activities, she said, “just a day for women to get away and celebrate each other.”
She would also like to set up a Pow Wow day in a local school, to augment students’ education of Native American history.
Boston-Coiner said the volunteer work keeps her in the middle of a vibrant community with loads of talent and resources that can make a difference. This includes bridging the gaps between Frederick ‘s minority communities.
“We need each other and can’t be afraid because we’re different,” she said.
In the meantime, Boston-Coiner said she would like to act as a creative force, to make the LIFE & Discovery website more interactive and to bring in vital corporate and other resources so the organization will grow into a local mainstay of the nonprofit community.
“We’ve got a lot of things in the works,” she said.
Giving back: Woman helps members of Burmese community adjust to life in America
Originally published May 13, 2008
| Cathy Wipf is glad her mother didn’t live to see her nation devastated. Wipf’s mother died two days before Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar (formerly Burma), killing more than 30,000 people.Wipf has lived for years in Frederick County, but maintains ties to her homeland. The cyclone tore the roof off the house in Rangoon that her mother had shared with one of Wipf’s sister. She hasn’t been able to contact another sister, but has heard she is safe.Meanwhile, Wipf is doing what she has always done — using her language skills to help others.When she was a little girl growing up, her mother made her learn English.Wipf said she didn’t like to speak the language, but later, when she took a job at the British embassy in Rangoon, she was thankful for her mother’s perseverance.”Mothers know best,” Wipf said.
In 1998, fighting broke out between students agitating for democracy and the country’s military government.
With the help of the British and other embassies, Wipf said she provided medical supplies to students who were shot.
Though she was not directly involved in politics, Wipf said she was followed and people who visited her house were questioned by the government.
“To make a long story short, I didn’t want to live there anymore,” she said.
She and her sister found jobs at the British embassy in Washington and moved to the U.S.
Wipf said their goal when they arrived was to help their family, the Burmese community here and their countrymen back home.
However, life as a single mother sidetracked her plans and for years she worked for a health insurance firm.
About a year and a half ago, Wipf remarried and no longer needed to work.
She said the Asian population, most of whom have legal status as refugees, is the fastest growing immigrant community in Frederick County.
She began translating and interpreting for Burmese immigrants in schools and in local hospitals.
Some Burmese and other Asians living here have trouble with English and are not accustomed to the health care system, she said. Many have health insurance through their jobs but avoid seeing a doctor or a dentist except in an emergency.
While working and volunteering in the community, Wipf met Elizabeth Chung, director of LIFE and Discovery, a nonprofit educational corporation.
Chung recently arranged for Wipf to tutor about 21 Burmese employees of RR Donnelley in English. Wipf’s class meets twice a week for five hours at a new community center in the Hillcrest neighborhood.
Wipf said her students are eager to learn, and RR Donnelley has provided incentives for them to get better positions within the company as they become more proficient in English.
In the last week, Wipf has faced a more urgent mandate. Since the cyclone struck on May 3, she has been trying to put local Burmese immigrants in touch with their loved ones back home. Even with help from a sister who works in Burma for the United Nations, the task remains daunting.
Wipf is also working with Elizabeth Chung and local Burmese churches on a fundraiser for cyclone victims planned for mid-June.
And she still sees a lack of local Asians who can act as translators in health fields and the schools, Wipf said.
“I’m just a drop in the bucket, but if others add their drops, the bucket will fill up.”