Volunteers call Riverside County Filipinos to check on them during pandemic

Filipino Americans represent a third of all Asian residents in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and experts say they’re among the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic because so many work in healthcare.

But several organizations are offering resources to Filipinos in Riverside County.

The Inland Empire Community Foundation has joined with state and local organizations to serve at-risk populations — including older residents and people of color — affected or isolated by the pandemic.

The Social Bridging Project, launched in early 2021, is a program of Listos California, a statewide emergency preparedness campaign anchored at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Over the past several months, bilingual volunteers, known as “Bridgers,” reach households by phone call, text, email or mail.

Miguela Consignado, a volunteer for The Social Bridging Project with the Pilipino Workers Center, helped call hundreds of Filipino families in the Inland Empire. “This work ensured preparedness and information, it brought awareness campaigns to promote critical health messaging throughout this pandemic,” Consignado said. “Our campaign (delivers) critical information in creative ways, checks on well being, directs them to resources and simply connects on a personal level.” (Courtesy of Ana Cobian)

Ian Kamus, a volunteer caller for The Social Bridging Project with the Pilipino Workers Center, said he helped a Filipino woman who owned a caregiving facility that was running low on personal protective equipment. “I gave her a number for a Riverside County program where you could request PPE to be sent for free. She was very thankful to be able to spread that resource to others.” (Courtesy of Ana Cobian)

Pilipino Workers Center volunteers for The Social Bridging Project, a health initiative launched during the pandemic with Listos California, meet virtually recently. The project, which includes in-language direct outreach to families, focuses on helping vulnerable communities. (Courtesy of Ana Cobian)
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They share information on topics such as scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments, getting tested for the virus, signing up for emergency natural disaster alerts or finding a food bank.

The latest outreach focuses on Black, Latino and Asian American communities, including Filipino families in Riverside County.

“The recipient stories shared with us show that Filipino elderly are vulnerable, especially those with large families,” said Celia Cudiamat, senior vice president of grants and community impact at the Inland Empire Community Foundation. “It is important for them to know about accessing resources available to deal with COVID-19 impacts, such as vaccines and making ends meet. The elderly need to feel safe and protected from the rise in violence and trauma from it.”

The project has reached more than 1,400 Filipino American households in Riverside County, according to Listos California.

The groups partnered with the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles for the outreach to Filipino families in Riverside County and statewide. From February until the end of April, 10 volunteers from the center are making weekly calls in Tagalog and other Philippine dialects.

The first question in the scripted calls is usually, “How are you doing?”

The personalized, in-language calls, volunteers said, aim to help Filipinos feel comfortable enough to ask questions and continue the phone call.

“It’s meant to be a one-on-one conversation, to be able to talk to someone and help them not feel alone,” said Ian Kamus, a volunteer and community organizer with the Pilipino Workers Center. “Sometimes we don’t know what’s available to us, and us Filipinos don’t seem to ask for help as much. It’s about empowerment and knowing what’s available to us as a community, and how we can help others in need during this time.”
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Listos California also worked with Riverside County’s Emergency Management Department and the Inland Empire Community Foundation to provide in-language resources to those in need — such as a wellness guide that lists contacts from county housing and mortgage relief to mental health resources.

More than 145,000 Californians have benefited from Social Bridging conversations through COVID-19 wellness checks and natural disaster readiness calls, officials said.

“It’s important not only to advocate for our own individual selves, but to work together as a community,” Kamus said. “It’s one of our most positive aspects as Asian Americans.”
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