Stan Tsai: ad­vo­cate, care­taker of all ages BIO

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By CAI CHUN­Y­ING in Wash­ing­ton charlenecai@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

For the past 15 years, Stan Tsai started his Chi­nese New Year cel­e­bra­tion mostly the same way, pre­par­ing for shows and ex­hi­bi­tions in the Lake­for­est Mall, a Wash­ing­ton sub­urb shop­ping cen­ter.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion he has been as­so­ci­ated with since 1996, Chi­nese Cul­ture and Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Cen­ter, has an agree­ment with the 150-store mall to cel­e­brate Chi­nese New Year with two weeks of vi­brant cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties.

Each year the pro­gram in­cludes not only youth show­cas­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese dance or dis­play­ing mar­tial art skills, but also se­niors on a cat­walk or in disco move­ment. Most of the vol­un­teers are also se­niors, the group that Tsai has ded­i­cated him­self to serv­ing for al­most 20 years.

“I fol­low the old say­ing in Chi­nese — honor elders as we do with our own aged par­ents,” said Tsai, 57, who was born and grew up in Tai­wan be­fore com­ing to the US in 1983.

Af­ter his mother passed away in 1994, Tsai de­cided to de­vote most of his spare time to so­cial work. The first or­ga­ni­za­tion he chose was CAREN (Chi­nese Amer­i­can Re­tiree En­ter­prise, Inc) Se­nior Cen­ter, serv­ing Chi­nese-Amer­i­can elders in the greater Wash­ing­ton area, and the only type of its kind at the time.

Un­like se­niors in the Chi­nese main­land or Tai­wan, Chi­nese elders in the US of­ten have no ex­ten­sive fam­ily or so­cial net­work that they can rely on. Many came here alone as first gen­er­a­tion or im­mi­grated with their adult chil­dren, leav­ing their cul­ture and rel­a­tives be­hind and fac­ing an ag­ing life that is of­ten lonely. Many also en­counter lan­guage bar­ri­ers when it comes to ob­tain­ing se­nior care pro­vided by main­stream fa­cil­i­ties.

Two years later, Tsai joined Chi­nese Cul­ture and Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Cen­ter (CCACC), then a small or­ga­ni­za­tion with spo­radic cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties for the lo­cal Chi­nese com­mu­nity.

Rec­og­niz­ing the need for se­nior care among Chi­nese Amer­i­cans, Tsai has over the years helped to trans­form the cen­ter into one of the largest or­ga­ni­za­tions in the Chi­nese com­mu­nity, pro­vid­ing fullfledged com­mu­nity ser­vices with spe­cial­iza­tion in se­nior care. He be­came its pres­i­dent in 1998 and chair­man in 2006 and 2012.

Tsai’s own pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence has served his vol­un­teer mis­sion work well. With a mas­ter’s de­gree in com­puter sci­ence re­ceived from the New York In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in 1986, Tsai had worked mainly for US mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals, de­vel­op­ing soft­ware to gather sta­tis­tics from var­i­ous med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing oversea bases, which then were used for re­source al­lo­ca­tion and bud­getary de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

“I gained a com­pre­hen­sive view of the med­i­cal sys­tem and learned how to build up and man­age an or­ga­ni­za­tion and di­rect re­sources to where they are most needed,” Tsai said, adding that his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion from the Chi­nese Cul­ture Univer­sity in Tai­wan also has helped to his man­age­rial suc­cess at CCACC.

Call­ing it­self a “grass­roots” or­ga­ni­za­tion, CCACC, has a 25,000 square-foot fa­cil­ity in Gaithers­burg, Mary­land, and more than 2,000 mem­bers and 60 full-time em­ploy­ees.

It houses an Adult Day Health­Care Cen­ter which re­ceives funds from the US govern­ment to pro­vide care to se­niors who have dis­abil­i­ties or ill­ness, in­clud­ing trans­porta­tion, din­ning, med­i­cal as­sis­tance and en­ter­tain­ment. Opened in 2008, the cen­ter soon ex­panded into the largest fa­cil­ity of its kind in Mary­land.

“The rea­son for our suc­cess is we are in­deed pro­vid­ing the ser­vice the com­mu­nity needs,” Tsai said, adding his vi­sion is to launch as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties and nurs­ing homes, the two more ad­vanced stages in se­nior care.

On top of its sig­na­ture se­nior care, CCACC is also a de facto cul­tural cen­ter, of­fer­ing a wide range of cul­tural classes and host­ing events through­out the year to pro­mote the aware­ness of Chi­nese cul­ture. The Lake­for­est Mall Chi­nese New Year cel­e­bra­tion is the high­light.

State and lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cials at­tended the open­ing cer­e­mony this year, pre­sent­ing the cen­ter with ap­pre­ci­a­tion cer­tifi­cates.

Tsai now serves as the cochair of the Mont­gomery County Ex­ec­u­tive Asian and Pa­cific Amer­i­can Ad­vi­sory Group, of­ten con­sult­ing with state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments on is­sues re­lated to his com­mu­nity.

When Tsai learned that the county govern­ment set up Mar­ket­Place to help im­mi­grants learn es­sen­tials of the new health­care law, or Oba­macare, he protested the lack of some­one who spoke Chi­nese to help call­ers nav­i­gate through the com­plex­ity of the sys­tem. About 10 per­cent of the county res­i­dents are Chi­nese. Six people who speak Chi­nese have since been added.

Tsai also founded AsianAmer­i­can Home­own­er­ship Coun­sel­ing (AAHC) dur­ing the real es­tate cri­sis sev­eral years ago and still serves as chair­man. The or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vides bilin­gual ser­vice to help Asian Amer­i­cans han­dle prob­lems they en­counter in the hous­ing mar­ket. It has re­ceived gen­er­ous federal grants and bank funds.

“If you do not stand out and let the govern­ment and politi­cians know your needs, you will not get what you need,” Tsai said, “In a par­tic­i­pa­tory democ­racy like the US, we need to have our own voice heard there­fore gain the de­served so­cial re­sources to serve more people.”

Tsai there­fore is ac­tive in voter reg­is­tra­tion and US Cen­sus par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Chi­nese com­mu­nity and of­ten writes ar­ti­cles en­cour­ag­ing his fel­low Chi­nese Amer­i­cans to be­come more po­lit­i­cally en­gaged.

He was the co- chair of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans Greater Wash­ing­ton DC Chap­ter (OCA-DC),

STAN TSAI

• 1956 Born in Tai­wan • 1979 BA, Chi­nese Cul­ture Univer­sity, Tai­wan • 1983 Comes to the US • 1986 MS, New York In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy • 1998 Pres­i­dent, Chi­nese Cul­ture and Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Cen­ter, Inc (CCACC) • 2006–08, 2012–13 Chair­man, CCACC • 2009 –11 Co-Pres­i­dent, OCA-DC • 2014 Di­rec­tor, Adult Day Health­care Cen­ter, CCACC an or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps Chi­nese Amer­i­cans be­come more as­sim­i­lated into Amer­i­can so­ci­ety.

As the Wash­ing­ton rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the New Party in Tai­wan, Tsai also shoul­ders an­other mis­sion: help­ing people un­der­stand Cross-Straits re­la­tions be­tween Tai­wan and the Chi­nese main­land. He at­tends think-tanks’ fo­rums and meets federal leg­is­la­tors, ad­vo­cat­ing that the US to stay out of Tai­wan-main­land re­la­tions. Tsai said he is happy to see that people from the Chi­nese main­land and Tai­wan share the same fa­cil­ity that he has helped to build.

Now re­tired from his pro­fes­sional job, Tsai be­came a full­time em­ployee of CCACC, serv­ing as the di­rec­tor of its adult day care cen­ter, af­ter many years of vol­un­teer work there.

“Our text book al­ways said the pur­pose of life is to serve,” re­called Tsai of his school­ing years in Tai­wan, “I guess I am do­ing that now.”

CAI CHUN­Y­ING / CHINA DAILY

Stan Tsai watches se­niors in his Adult Day Health­care Cen­ter in­side the Chi­nese Cul­ture and Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Cen­ter play game.

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