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January 31, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

A Visit to Asian Americans for Community Involvements…by Lohrie Arruiza

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While serving as a VISTA, there have been many times in the last few months that I’ve felt touched by a nonprofit’s mission. However, it took a trip to the offices of Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) to realize why I truly wanted to serve. On the morning of September 11, we met Ann Im, Director of Development at AACI, for a guided tour of the agency.

AACI, Santa Clara County’s largest community-based organization focused on the Asian community, is headquartered in a large building just across the street from Santa Clara County Hospital and near the San Jose City College. It was a busy day at the office: the receiving rooms were all filled with waiting patients and clients, but it was in the private meeting room at the very end of the tour that I realized why I was a VISTA.

As my VISTA teammates and I made ourselves comfortable, we learned that the last part of the tour would be a presentation from an AACI staff members about the organization’s domestic violence shelter. The staff member told the story of a woman who came to them with a terrible past. We were told the woman was drawn to the United States under false pretenses. Her hopes of being a blushing bride and starting a new family were quickly destroyed upon arrival, when she was locked in a room and treated like a slave for five long years.

She had several children while enslaved. Remarkably, it was a common cold from one of the children and a trip to the doctor that helped them escape. The presenter told of a harrowing escape that led the woman to AACI. The organization helped the woman and her children into a shelter and provided mental and medical support that they desperately needed.

In the end, the woman and her children were given second chance at life—all thanks to the efforts and support from AACI staff and volunteers.

The story touched my heart so much that it made me realize again why I wanted to be an AmeriCorps VISTA. It was not only the services offered by the organization, but also the way the organization presented the woman’s story, which got to the heart of why AACI helps members of its local community—because they truly love to serve.

HandsOn Tech is a national program focused on increasing the nonprofit sector’s effective use of technology—ultimately increasing community resources and improving outcomes for low-income communities and families. Offering free nonprofit training and pro-bono technology consulting, the HandsOn Tech project serves eight cities across the country. Learn more about HandsOn Tech Silicon Valley.

For over 39 years, Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) has provided critical support to its community. The agency’s work impacted more than 12,000 people in 2012. Its mission ensures that all Asians in Santa Clara County are healthy, empowered and equal members of the community.

Blog post written by Lohrie Arruiza, a public relations graduate from San Jose, California, who is serving with the HandsOn Tech in San Jose. She has a background in technology and communications.

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