Quincy Asian Sources Inc. appears to be like nothing prefer it did 10, and even 5, years in the past. The mission — to bridge language and cultural boundaries for members of the town’s booming Asian inhabitants — stays the identical, however the nonprofit has gone from monetary struggles and reliance on donors to a thriving company in its personal proper, boosting the native financial system and producing earnings via enterprise partnerships.
The catalyst for change? Philip Chong.
“Trying again, I might have favored to have had the QARI that we’ve got proper now to help my youthful self, and that’s why we’ve tried to be completely different,” Chong, the group’s first-ever CEO stated.
Chong immigrated to America as a 16-year-old — and left his total household behind in Hong Kong to do it. He’s initially from a working class household with three youngsters, and stated he had a lifelong want to “pursue the American dream.”
“One of many causes I got here right here was as a result of I knew I wasn’t going to be accepted in my nation,” Chong, who’s homosexual, stated. “However America has all the time been represented as this beacon of freedom . . . I wished to make a life for myself. I wished to come back right here, research and be unbiased.”
He was accepted to boarding college at Lawrence Academy in Groton, went to varsity in Boston and finally labored for practically 20 years within the non-public sector, earning money in administration and enterprise consulting. He obtained married and is elevating two daughters along with his husband in Brookline, and three years in the past he stated he began craving for one thing extra.
“Work was busy and financially very rewarding, however after a enterprise journey, I made a decision I’d take a hiatus,” Chong stated. “I keep in mind it vividly — it was the yr Trump received the election. I wasn’t essentially planning on being in nonprofits, however I knew what I didn’t wish to do for work, which was journey continuously.”
It was then that the board of directors for QARI came across Chong’s LinkedIn profile, and reached out to consider him for the agency’s first ever CEO position. He’d never worked in the nonprofit realm, and had never been to Quincy, but the idea piqued his interest.
“We started talking and what fascinated me at the time was when they told me that Quincy has the largest Asian population per capita. I had an epiphany,” he said. “As an immigrant, I’ve always seen myself as a minority or as an individual not being recognized. You’re always the minority, always on the sidelines. So when they told me Quincy had this population, I thought ‘Really? Me, as a majority?’ And that’s when it clicked for me.”
Since Chong took over, QARI has expanded its traditional offerings and launched successful business partnerships that have made the agency self-sustaining in a way it hadn’t been before.
When QARI was founded in 2001, its only full-time employee was providing basic information about city services to non-English-speaking Asian immigrants — things as simple as where to pay a tax bill or how to get trash picked up. But today, the organization provides English classes, citizen programs, adult education, mentorship opportunities, elder services, social activities, cultural festivals, and more to immigrants from all over the world. And they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
“We will go nationwide if the opportunity is right,” Chong said earlier this year. “We know there are a lot of people in need, whether they’re coming to us or not. We need to find those people — that’s our job.”
In addition to basic language and civics instruction, Quincy Asian Resources has taken on a role of cultural liaison. The organization helps immigrants figure out health care, helps parents navigate American public schools, prevents senior citizen isolation with field trips and activities, and provides a mentorship program for the middle school children of immigrants.
Through its new workforce partnership program, the organization provides workshops, classes and other services to employees of businesses with a largely immigrant workforce. So far, Brooks Brothers locations in Haverhill and New York City are the nonprofit’s biggest partners.
And when COVID-19 shut down traditional manufacturing, forcing companies to switch to production of protective equipment, workers fearful of returning to work amid a pandemic turned to QARI.
“Immigrants were scared to go back in March, but Brooks Brothers still had to make 150,000 units of PPE per day,” Chong said. “So we started a home-based sewing network. We got the cut materials from Brooks Brothers, then delivered to people’s homes and picked up weekly. Our home-based network makes tens of thousands of pieces of PPE per month.”
And when COVID-19 led to inevitable layoffs across the community, Chong developed a manufacturing function within QARI to create jobs for those who were suddenly without them.
“In a very short period of time, we got a lot of people buying our face masks, isolation gowns and face shields. We were very proud of ourselves — we were really able to create jobs for these workers,” he said. “We’re pivoting, and for the next fiscal year, we are going to really keep focusing on this manufacturing sector in hopes of keeping people employed.”
When you talk to Chong about QARI, you’d never know he was once in financial services or is relatively new to the organization. His love for the clients is obvious, and his ambition seems never-ending.
“It’s a life calling, and I’d never felt that. It never feels like work at QARI,” he said. “Even though there are always challenges and things going on, for the last four years, I’ve done a lot that I’m very proud of.”