Each of CADRE’s partners brings value to our group and in December we highlight the Asian American Center of SCC (AACSCC), as the perfect example of the power of collaboration. AACSCC is a relatively small non-profit that has been working with Sacred Heart and Destination Home, providing emergency assistance to SCC’s vulnerable Asian population. MyLinh Pham, the CEO, also hosts a live Vietnamese Radio Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where community issues are discussed and PSA’s can reach thousands of people in the Vietnamese Community.
Last week, CADRE received a request for assistance that demonstrates the beauty of partnership. A 78 year old Vietnamese couple both became ill with COVID-19 and were taken to the hospital. The wife recovered and returned to the home they had shared with their daughter and her 4 small children (youngest 3 months). The father grew weaker and after 31 days in the hospital he died alone, as so many must do in this pandemic. His last communication before he was intubated was a phone conversation with his daughter, asking her to bring him a vegetarian meal – a final wish that she was unable to fulfill.
After 5 days his body was still in the hospital, because the family did not have the money for cremation. The family did not even know where to get food, because the father had always picked it up at donation sites. The Vietnamese speaking mother was still frail, and the daughter was feeling depressed, alone and overwhelmed, not knowing how she would be able to take care of the needs of the family.
Minutes after the CADRE leadership team saw the request, offers of help started rolling in.
- MyLinh Pham of AACSCC offered to pay for the cremation.
- The City of San Jose reached out to Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and asked for their support using CARES Act funding. They responded with a 2nd offer to pay for the cremation.
- The Bay Area Funeral Consumers Association offered free access to discounted services.
- Araceli Gonzalez of Catholic Charities immediately had a box of food delivered.
- Bruno Pillet of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley offered to arrange for a longer term plan.
- Sheri Burns of the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center sent information about low cost cremation and other funeral resources for low income families
MyLinh immediately called the family and spoke to the daughter, and has since talked with her every night, offering grief counseling, encouragement and guidance. The daughter was grateful, but shocked that a stranger would call and spend so much time listening to her concerns. She was also surprised to learn that the community was reaching out to her, and she wasn’t as alone as she thought. MyLinh’s team prepared and delivered a vegetarian meal for the family, so no one would have to cook.
After 3 days of conversation, MyLinh was surprised to learn that the couple had 6 children. The other 5 were scattered around the country, and had not been home in years. At MyLinh’s suggestion, the daughter called her siblings and all immediately said they would come home to see their father one more time before he was cremated. They arrived just before the latest shut down, when Santa Clara County moved back into the purple tier. We do not know if the family will be able to see their father under the new restrictions, but they are together.
Even though 2 organizations had offered to pay the cremation expenses, the elderly wife had been distraught, crying for hours every day. She believed that if the family accepted this help from the community, it would incur a debt for her deceased husband and prevent him from ever going to heaven. What a horrible dilemma for a grieving woman. Even with her understanding of the Vietnamese culture and language, MyLinh could not convince her that this was not a loan and there would be no debt. But when the family came together and learned the situation, the siblings decided to share the cost, and told Catholic Charities and AACSCC that they should use the $1000 for another family.
MyLinh is giving the family a few days to reconnect before she checks in to see what needs to happen next. She wants to assure that the mother, daughter and 4 small children are all connected to the service providers that can help them get vegetarian food, healthcare, childcare and longer term counseling.
Through one call to CADRE, many good things emerged from a very sad situation. A family has come together after years of separation. We can hope that after they return to their respective homes, the siblings will remember the things they have in common and stay in touch. An elderly widow can rest more easily, knowing that her family has taken care of their father and his spirit is free to leave for heaven. A young mother has a new understanding of the community she has been living in and how to look for help when she needs it. She is not as alone as she thought.
And CADRE partners gained new understanding of each other’s services through the spontaneous collaboration. In the next few months, we can expect to encounter this situation more frequently as the number of COVID-19 deaths grows daily. We are more aware of the needs of grieving families and the need to reach out and offer culturally sensitive assistance. Visit CADRESV.org to find links to emergency assistance, food, emotional and spiritual support, and multi-language information. These are difficult times, but everything is easier when we don’t have to do it alone.
This article is also posted in the November CADRE Newsletter.