Young Asians are hungry for social change and groups like the Hua Foundation and Schema are equipping them with the tools needed to make an impact. These organizations help youth connect with their peers and elders over food security issues, and explore and express their stories about identity.
Hua Foundation aims to bridge the intergenerational gap
The Hua Foundation wants to bridge the intergenerational gap between elders and youth, while considering environmental responsibility. Through workshops such as last fall’s G-Ma Kitchen Table series, the foundation encourages elders to teach youth how to cook traditional dishes using organic ingredients.
“We want to show the younger generation that they can do meaningful things to systematically, fundamentally be a part of social change beyond recycling and composting,” says Claudia Li, co-founder of the Hua Foundation.
The foundation is responsible for Shark Truth, which advocates sustainable seafood, and the Choi project, which attempts to make organic Chinese produce accessible.
So far the response from the elders has been positive.
“They are proud of us for standing up for what we believe in. Because they also know that our work is basically to create a legacy for each of our families and our communities, they see it as giving back to all the sacrifice they gave us,” says Li.
One of the challenges for immigrants in becoming socially engaged, whether they be from Asia or the Middle East, is that they are trying to settle in society, says Li, 27.
Many immigrants’ goals are focused on survival, not social issues, which can make engagement a challenge.
“There is a culture of sacrifice to give everything to the kids,” Li says.
Giving voice to intergenerational Asians online
Nearly 10 years ago, Alden Habacon found that his peers didn’t fit into any ethnic group – they were too ethnic to be in mainstream media, yet not ethnic enough to be in the ethnic media. Because of this gap, he founded Schema, an online magazine for Asian-born Canadians to share their stories. Habacon, now the UBC Director of Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development, feels that Asian-Canadians are increasingly present in mainstream and ethnic media.
“Turn on the TV, they’re just all over the place,” Habacon says.
However, he observes that people in his generation are still forming silos or ethnic cliques, as their parents did.
To counteract these cliques, Schema hosted an event called Warm Up in 2012, a volunteer appreciation event brought together different minority organizations, including the Powell Street Festival, Vancouver International Bhangra Festival, Reel Asian Film Festival, and North American Association of Asian Professionals. Habacon sees the next step in social sustainability as making connections between different ethnic groups.
“It’s about ultimately how diverse groups interact with each other. If they don’t, it leads to conflict and that affects the cohesion of community,” he says.
Writers from Schema have moved onto more mainstream media.
“That was always our goal: to be a place to develop talent. People can’t continue writing for us because they are making it to the mainstream media. It’s also a place where people find their voices,” he says.
Both Hua Foundation and Schema are working on making connections between generations and ethnic groups to ensure that there is a link to the past and a bridge to future social bonds.
“Mo Dhaliwal, the founder of Vancouver International Bhangra Festival, says that British Columbia is like a bento box. Everything fits nicely, but nothing touches. We want to have the elements touching, just a bit,” Habacon says.