Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, observed in the U.S. during the month of May, recognizes the achievements, contributions, and influences of AAPI individuals and groups. The AAPI umbrella is expansive and includes cultures from the entire content of Asia and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. This month celebrates the unique journey of all AAPI immigrants and citizens in the U.S. and their unique life experiences, traditions and cultures.
In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties (PPOSBC) is spotlighting an employee who embodies our WE CARE values to share her story. Jessica Chinen is the Vice President of Finance and has been with PPOSBC for 9 years. We connected with Jessica to learn more about her role and how heritage has shaped where she is today.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO THIS TYPE OF WORK?
"I started my career in a public accounting firm doing financial audits for nonprofits/municipalities. Working with organizations such as Cities/Counties, performing art centers, child welfare and youth program agencies provided me a different purpose in life. I knew I wanted to stay within the nonprofit world. After I got married in 2014, I was fortunate to join PPOSBC in the Accounting Department and be able to serve the community and be in the Pro-Choice fight."
WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR JOB?
"It never gets boring. I have most enjoyed seeing the growth of PPOSBC since I joined. We have grown to provide Primary Care, Behavioral Health, online birth control services, opening another health center location, being nimble during COVID-19, and now, most of all, fighting to maintain the right to choose. It is sad to see where the Nation is today, but it makes my job that much more important to ensure we sustain our existence to assist those that are in need of our services."
HOW HAS YOUR HERITAGE SHAPED THE PERSON THAT YOU ARE TODAY?
"I was born in Taiwan and moved to the U.S. in the mid-80s. We came to the U.S. for the 'American Dream.' My parents were both pharmacists in Taiwan so we lived well. However, it was a struggle when we arrived as the U.S. dollar was very strong and English was hard for my parents to learn. We made a living by selling shoes and/or toys at Swap Meets while eating into our savings accounts. Waking up at 4/5 am on the weekends, setting up the tent during the cold winter or the hot summer (with NO air conditioning) months, then packing up around 3/4 pm. Through all of it, my parents did not show their exhaustion. My mom wasn't a 'tiger mom' but we definitely were raised to stride for strength and success. If you fall, get back up and do it again."
DOES YOUR HERITAGE HELP YOU CONNECT WITH THE PEOPLE WE SERVE OR YOUR WORK?
"Working in the Swap Meets helped me learn and connect with our diverse communities and cultures. Being exposed to different cultures from a young age gave me an appreciation for learning about cultures that were different from mine. I loved listening to Latin music as I heard it very day! I also loved visiting other stands and trying new and interesting foods. Corn on the cob with cheese, mayo and chili sauce quickly became my favorite! Through these experiences, I not only learned and became comfortable with many cultures that exist in Orange County but I also gained an appreciation for and understanding of the communities that come to PPOSBC for care and the importance in having staff that understand the traditions and values of these communities so our patients can feel safe and understood."
WHAT DOES AAPI HERITAGE MONTH MEAN TO YOU?
"Our family was never big on celebrating any holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries of any sort. Every day was a gift to be alive with family. As kids, we didn't have to wait until our birthdays to get a present, but we were not spoiled. Therefore, "special" days/events felt like any other day. Not until my later days in college did I start to celebrate birthdays/holidays with my friends. So AAPI Heritage Month means that I get to celebrate my culture and eat lots of Asian food!"
DO YOU HAVE ANY TRADITIONS THAT ARE ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
"I didn't grow up with many traditions. However, now as a wife and mother of two, I want to instill traditions for my kids such as red envelopes on Lunar New Year and eating dumplings during Winter Solstice."
ANY LAST COMMENTS?
"I love working at PPOSBC. I appreciate the opportunity for growth I had here and looking forward to many years to come."