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Opening Doors For Chinese Seniors

Student speaks with older adults

Authored by: Lisa Dugan

Photography by: Candace diCarlo

Student Life

10/01/13

For some SP2 students, global engagement starts right here at home. One such student, Yimeng Zhang, MSW’14, has had a significant impact in the lives of older Chinese immigrants in South Philadelphia.

Zhang, a Chinese native, serves as an intern at the St. Charles Senior Community Center where he helps Chinese immigrants apply for a federal food program and other benefits. Since his arrival, the number of Chinese participants has grown from six to 32.

“Because of Yimeng and the work he has done here, we are afforded the opportunity to assess and serve the needs of the Chinese people who live in this area,” Center Director Kathy Boles said.

When Zhang noted that many of the Center’s non-English speaking participants had questions about health care, he helped organize and translate a Medicare informational program, which was extremely well attended.

“Older immigrants can feel very isolated,” said Zhang. “The senior center is a great asset because it can not only help them address basic needs, but also provide a place to meet others. I think having someone who not only speaks their language, but also understands their culture has made it less intimidating for them to access what the center has to offer.”

Boles couldn’t agree more. “Yimeng has been such a gift to us all,” she said. “He is kind, skilled, proactive, and extremely observant.”