Leadership

Asian-American Group to Members: Embrace Your Community

By / Nov 10, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The Chinese American Association of Lexington asks members to get involved and give back to their community.

Ahead of the 2016 election, the Massachusetts-based Chinese American Association of Lexington is asking its members to get involved in local politics and give back to their community, CAAL President Peter Lee told Associations Now.

In addition to being a social organization, CAAL provides a voice for the town’s Asian Americans in areas including education, local politics, and diversity awareness. Lee said the need for more diverse voices has become greater in recent years as the town’s Asian-American population has grown. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Asians represented 20 percent of the local population, up from 6.4 percent in 1990 [PDF]. Yet of the 190 town meeting members, only between eight to 10 members are Asian American, Lee said.

“What we’re trying to do is get people involved in running for town meeting [member]” and get “their feet wet,” Lee said.

Established around 1985 to advocate for school funding, CAAL’s efforts to provide a voice for Asian families and Asian cultures resumed in the early 90’s, Lee said. CAAL recently begun an effort to encourage its members to become active in their community, whether that be by volunteering to coach or bring snacks to their child’s sporting event, joining a local Parent Teacher Association chapter, or running for a position on the local town board or a committee.

Residents who emigrated from Mainland China, Taiwan, or the Philippines often focus on working hard and devoting time to family, Lee said. Very few think about getting involved in government.

To encourage participation, CAAL has partnered with the town government, local boards, and committees to help match members with opportunities based on their skills and availability. For those who want to get involved in town government, Lee said CAAL is encouraging members to run for office and educating members on what’s expected when running a campaign. CAAL is also educating members on what kinds of roles and responsibilities are required to be a good town council member.

“People have been very receptive to having someone show them the ropes,” Lee said. Asian families are often family-oriented and busy, and some lack confidence in their English skills, he added, explaining why many are reluctant to run for office.

As the birthplace of American liberty, Lexington encourages residents to get involved, and CAAL has raised around $120,000 throughout the past few years for various causes, Lee said. The group’s latest effort is raising $50,000 to help fund the $700,000 needed to renovate the town library.

Katie Rucke

Katie Rucke is former Associate Editor for Associations Now. More »

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