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A Lesson in Pacific Islander Collaboration

For the past three years, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has gone across the country to hear from communities and to learn how we can make the federal government work better for AAPIs.  And we’ve learned that, many times, it takes government, communities, philanthropic organizations and corporations working together to create solutions.

As part of our recent community engagement efforts, I had the honor of attending the Nonprofit Congress in Guam to meet with leaders representing the “Blue Continent,” the unifying name given to the Pacific Islands by their residents.  The leaders discussed how the Islands’ location and low population density often are barriers to attracting and retaining health care workers and accessing educational and training opportunities.  Ensuring that American Pacific Islanders have a voice in the federal arena – something most Americans take for granted – has been a challenge.

After the Nonprofit Congress ended, I visited Guam Community College – a Department of Education-designated Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander-serving Institution.  Combined sources of federal funding contributed to the college’s first student center, a place where students are now able to stay after class to collaborate in study groups and access reference materials.  I then visited Guma’ Mami, a group home funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where adults with physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities were building a community garden.  My tour ended with a stop at Sagan Mami, a drop-in center that provides shelter and medical care for homeless individuals and employment training for people with mental illness.  Funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Sagan Mami also operates a peer mentorship program to aid in the healing and recovery process. 

These places reminded me of all the things we can accomplish together.  Together, we can build better communities. 

Audrey Buehring is Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.