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July 24, 2012 > A feather in Fremont's cap

A feather in Fremont's cap

Submitted By Krishnaswamy Narasimhan, Community Ambassador

America is a nation of immigrants. Fremont is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the Bay-Area, with over 100 languages and dialects spoken among the communities here. Among the ethnic immigrants, 18.1% are Asian Indians, 17.8% Chinese, 6.7% Filipinos, 2.5% Vietnamese, 2.3% Thai, 1.8% Korean, 1.3% Hmong, 1% Pakistanis, 0.8% Japanese & 0.6% Burmese (2010 United States Census). Even though many of these immigrants are well educated, senior immigrants sponsored by their wards are usually "fish out of water" and have difficulties acclimatizing to an alien environment.

Lack of mobility and language barriers add woes to their day-to-day life; they also wish to retain cultural identity. Diverse cultures pose a challenge to making them feel at home. The considerable impact of Fremont's Human Services Department through the CAPS (Community Ambassador Program for Seniors) program is a "feather in the cap" of the City and in the lives of many these seniors.

In an attempt to reach this diverse group of citizens in need of a helping hand, the Human Services department developed a volunteer force from within a myriad of cultural communities to serve the seniors. The "CAPS" program was born with the assistance of the "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation." which awarded a two-year grant (2007-09) for the project. Community Ambassadors undergo 40 hours of training in a variety of areas including Social Security Benefits, Medi-Cal, Medi-Care, Cal-Fresh, housing, immigration, transportation and more to acquire the knowledge and confidence to help the seniors. As of July 2010, 138 Ambassadors from various communities have been trained.

Prior to the creation of CAPS, desperate seniors in need of services were often exploited; CAPS ambassadors offer a free alternative to this population. Even if the Ambassador is unable to solve a problem, they are trained to guide clients to appropriate resources such as the Senior Helpline of Aging and Family Services under the guidance of Asha Chandra (achandra@ci.fremont.ca.us).

The City of Fremont Human Services Department is the proud recipient of the 2010 American Society on Aging Network of Multicultural Aging (NOMA) Award for its Community Ambassador Program for Seniors (CAPS).

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