Two students have raised over $14,000 to provide pepper spray and alarms for Asian women, seniors and LGBTQ+ in NYC.
Mount Sinai medical student Michelle Tran and her eighth-grade mentee, Tiffany Yuen, raised the funds under their initiative Soar Over Hate in over four weeks.
Wanting to help Asian women, seniors and LGBTQ+ in the city feel safer, Tran and Yuen created a GoFundMe and Venmo campaign last month.
Since then, they have raised enough money to purchase more than 4,000 personal safety alarms and over 1,000 pepper sprays.
The mentor-mentee pair, who started their initiative last March, was “concerned by the escalation in violent hate crimes affecting the AAPI community in NYC, disproportionately affecting women and elderly, and wanted to use their resources to help,” according to the Soar Over Hate’s first Instagram post.
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Soar Over Hate aims to reach various people of different ethnic backgrounds and NYC boroughs.
Although alarms and pepper spray provide a short-term fix to a much deeper issue, these items address “an immediate need that must be filled,” as told by Tran and Yuen to NextShark.
The two students asked their friends and family to help distribute the self-protective equipment. They also collaborate with different AAPI organizations to distribute the items.
In partnership with Project Chinatown, volunteers distributed items on the street during a volunteer patrol walk. At Hong Ning House for the Elderly, volunteers knocked on 200 doors to distribute items to low-income seniors.
Additionally, Tran and her partner, Howard Chen, have also distributed items on foot. In Manhattan’s Chinatown, the pair gave self-protective equipment to elderly and female employees working for small businesses such as restaurants, garment shops and fruit stands.
Some of the recipients have told Tran and Yuen that they still bring their pepper spray and alarms every time they leave their homes.
Tran and Yuen are in the process of planning events with other like-minded individuals who have started their own grassroots initiatives.
On April 25, Soar Over Hate will partner with Esther Lim of How to Report a Hate Crime to distribute alarms and translated booklets about reporting hate crimes. They will be at Columbus Park in Manhattan’s Chinatown at 10 a.m.
Tran and Yuen will also join grassroots leader Kenji Jones, along with local nonprofits, to create a large holistic Chinatown community health and safety fair to offer self-defense classes, voter registration, healthcare screenings as well as self-protective materials in May in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
To better help Asian seniors, women and LGBTQ+ in NYC and across the U.S., Tran and Yuen believe we must “recognize that fears of safety is now an everyday norm for many Asian elderly, women, and LGBTQ+ and provide support and care in whatever forms we can.”
Last month, NYC recorded a total of 26 anti-Asian incidents since the start of 2021.
“While this is a scary time, it’s also a prime time for solidarity and care,” Tran and Yuen told NextShark. “Reach out to AAPI peers around you to see how you can help, donate to grassroots initiatives doing this work, or volunteer your time supporting their efforts!”
Featured Images via Michelle Tran