Michelle Tran, a Chinese and Vietnamese-American medical student living in the city, was horrified by this surge of violence and wanted to do something to help her community.
“As an Asian American, I saw that we could be harassed because of the way we look,” Tran said. “They started spitting on my friends, they shouted insults and called them the “Chinese virus.”
“I started to realize that a lot of people don’t know where to get resources or don’t have the money to buy a personal alarm clock,” she said.
The organization has distributed more than 25,000 personal protective equipment since March 2021, Tran said. They prioritized the most vulnerable, such as essential workers, the elderly, women, and low-income Asian Americans.
Often, at nonprofit giveaway events, hundreds of members of the AAPI community line up to receive a personal protective device. At a recent event at Yu and Me Books in New York’s Chinatown, about 1,000 women waited in the freezing cold for over an hour to receive a portable protection device.
“It was both heartbreaking and motivating to see so many people,” Tran said. “I think it highlighted the need and the fears that many people, like me, are experiencing right now.”
“After this intense media coverage of the attacks, humiliations and beatings of Asian American women, we really wanted to restore our sense of power and strength,” Tran said.
In self-defense classes, women are taught situational awareness and how to de-escalate or avoid an attack.
To help deal with the trauma people are going through, the nonprofit offers culturally competent therapy for anti-Asian hate victims and their families, as well as need-based scholarships for AAPI youth.
Tran says she has one hope of advancing her work: to help save lives.
“I hope that people who receive our personal protective equipment or attend our self-defense classes feel more capable of fighting back,” she said. “And if a scenario ever comes up, they’ll know how to protect themselves and walk away unscathed.”