SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Reports of violent crimes against people from the Asian community continue to come into law enforcement. But efforts are underway nationwide to help the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community feel safer.
"Taking public transportation or just walking out in public has been pretty challenging and pretty scary," said Paul Lim, a sophomore at Emory University.
Lim and longtime friend Sydney Trieu created a fund to help provide more transportation options to the AAPI community. Their donation-based fund, San Diego Cabbie, is reimbursing Uber and Lyft rides for Asian women, seniors, and Asians with disabilities. So far, they've raised over $7,000.
"Part of the reason why I wanted to start this is because I was thinking of my own family members," said Lim. "Because I know that if I'm scared for my own family, if I walk outside, then I know every other Asian in the community are scared for their families as well."
He was also inspired by a similar fund created in New York, Cafe Maddy Cab, reimbursing rides for Asian women, Asian LGBTQ, and Asian seniors in New York City. Cafe Maddy Cab has so far raised over $139,000.
"I wanted to provide another alternative or a way for members to at least feel a bit of a safe haven for the attacks that are going on," said Lim.
Lim says essential rides up to $30 in San Diego can be reimbursed by filling out a form on their Instagram account @sandiegocabbie. People can also email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We actually hope to do this for as long as we can because xenophobia is never just going to be, like, completely gone," said Trieu.
Similar funds have been created in Boston and the Bay Area. Lim says one is also planned for Los Angeles.
"To be able to have someone pick you up at your door and then take you to your appointment, take you to the grocery store, there is that sense of safety," said JoAnn Fields, director of the Filipino Resource Center in San Diego.
Fields provided support to an 83-year-old Filipino woman who was riding the trolley when a stranger punched her, unprovoked.
"She doesn't feel safe riding the trolley," said Fields. "So, how are you getting around?"
Fields has been connecting her with rides, groceries, and therapy.
"When there is that lack of understanding, there's a fear. And that's why I feel people hate, because they hate what they don't know. They fear what they don't know," she said.
Fields is hoping the fund will also help break barriers to getting people vaccinated. She's been organizing vaccine pop-up events in hopes of getting more seniors in the APPI community vaccinated.
"We have seniors that are 80, 70, that may not be driving," said Fields. "To be offered this service is comforting and to know that there is safety without the burden of, 'how am I going to pay for this?'"
Fields has also been educating the Asian community on hate crimes and is planning to provide resources, like self-defense classes, at upcoming events.
"With another group, we're thinking of a 'blow the whistle' campaign, so blow the whistle; if you see something, say something. And then, we're thinking of getting whistles to our seniors so they can blow the whistle to help bring attention if they are in an attack or if they don't feel safe. So, there are ideas. People are being innovative, but they're talking, they're taking action," said Fields.
In New York, an anti-hate group distributed 3,000 personal alarms to Asian Americans and immigrants. Around the country, groups have formed to escort Asian Americans around their neighborhoods.
"COVID-19 magnified what we lack, what people hate," said Fields. "Let's learn, who is your neighbor? We're you're neighbor, we're your doctor, we're your nurse, we're in the military, we're your teacher, we go to the same church."
Lim encourages young people to help seniors take advantage of the ridesharing reimbursement service. He says rides can be ordered on behalf of someone who qualifies for the program.