[職場]The International Examiner 2019–2020 Advocacy Journalism Fellowship Program fellow interview
By Isabel Wang
22-year-old Carmen Hom, who is Chinese American, spent most of her life growing up in the suburb Castro Valley, California. Her paternal grandfather immigrated in the 1930s from Toisan, China, to San Francisco when he was 16 years old. He became the foundation of bringing everyone else in the family to the United States. A lot of the family members from her mother’s side are still living in Hong Kong, to which she feels a strong connection.
Family is Carmen’s strongest support and she lives by her father’s values of authenticity, generosity and honesty. Music plays a big part in Carmen’s life. She used to take piano and violin lessons, which taught her discipline. She extended that passion to learning the ukulele and guitar, and this taught her to grow creatively. Her favorite song is Atomic Number by Neko Case. She also loves making music with people.
Carmen came to Seattle for college at the University of Washington (UW) in 2015. Passionate about problem solving and working with people, Carmen chose to major in civil engineering and minor in urban planning. “Urban planning helped me bring the big picture of ‘why’, while I was learning the ‘how’ of civil engineering,” she said. Carmen graduated this year and started working at a transportation consulting firm.
About the Advocacy Journalism Fellowship Program, Carmen said, “I have always been interested in community advocacy work, and using the medium of writing articles was a really interesting change for me.”
Carmen’s focus in this eight-month long training with the IE is on the regional Asian Indian American community. The journey of becoming one of this year’s five community advocacy fellows all started from an email Carmen got from her faculty advisor at college. It was about UW’s Grand Challenges Impact Lab (GCIL) program. The GCIL is a quarter-long study abroad program in Bangalore, India, that empowers students to address problems such as food security, clean water, and climate change.
Carmen was accepted to the program, and she struggled a lot about whether it was the right thing to do. She was a senior, and many of her classmates were already landing jobs. She chose to trust her inner voice eventually, and on January 3, 2019, Carmen found herself in Bangalore. After returning to Seattle in March, she still felt drawn to India. She connected with many people. “I am still processing everything that happened in India. I was thinking about what would happen if I did not go?” Carmen said. “Coming back to Seattle is a lot harder than going to India.”
Back in India, Carmen and her teammates were paired with Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), a child-centered and rights-based non-governmental organization. One of APSA’s programs is called the Dream School. The students come from tough backgrounds from underprivileged homes in Bangalore. This school aims to reincorporate them into public schools.
Carmen’s senior year capstone team project was to work with APSA to come up with a social enterprise idea. Their idea was the mobile learning center (MLC). MLC was a van that visited different schools, mostly governmental and nonprofit schools, which had a teacher and an industrial professional on board. Carmen says, “the goal of MLC is to inform students about the variety of available career options through hands on interactive learning.”
When the trip came to an end, Carmen felt guilty leaving the project they had been working so hard on for 10 weeks. Even now, eight months after returning, when people ask about her trip, the emotional feelings still come back to her. “I feel so grateful for this opportunity, and I am still processing my experience,” she said.
Throughout the IE fellowship, Carmen will be covering the Indian Asian American community in the Puget Sound region, with the goal of covering and finding stories from all the different regions of India. Even though Carmen does not have connections in every region, she is enthusiastic about connecting with the Indian community and discovering their stories. “Like my mindset in India, I am eager to take any opportunity and possibility — to amplify underrepresented voices, to advocate, and to learn.”