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Sean L. Taylor taylor

New to Las Vegas? A resource for immigrants

Monday, January 21, 2013

Frida Tju discusses the origins of the Asian Community Resource Center.
Photo by Sean Taylor

Most people in Las Vegas remain completely oblivious to the fact that the town’s transience has a byproduct: many residents with countless needs. Many people who relocate to Las Vegas remain unaware of and uninterested in the backgrounds of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even newly acquired relatives (i.e. “in-laws”)! This baffles me, since most everyone who takes refuge within the borders of the Las Vegas metropolitan area shares an unusual trait. Something significant made them leave everything they know to move to a town with a reputation many would agree is less than stellar.

Their reasons for pulling up roots are probably as fascinating as they are diverse. With this in mind, we can conclude that Las Vegas is abundant with fascinating people, moved to act by circumstances that failed to affect their family and peers from “back home.” What stories they must have! One particularly interesting tale involves the arrival of my friend, Frida Tju. With even more inspiring acts, she, along with two colleagues, is increasing the tale’s complexity with the recent launch of the Asian Community Resource Center.

In May of 1998 I was a junior in college with very few things on my mind outside of class, local watering holes, and after-party locales. Little did I know that at the exact same time, Frida was witnessing atrocities that would lead to the crossing of our paths twelve years later.

The atrocities of which I speak occurred between May 12th and May 14th of 1998. Rioting ravaged Indonesia, during which Frida’s ethnic group, representing four percent of the population, was targeted. The horror of these riots had a profound effect on Frida, then living in her home town of Sinkawang, a small city in West Borneo Island, Indonesia. The incident served as a catalyst for lofty goals of someday making her way to another country in pursuit of her dreams. That pursuit led her to Las Vegas, Nevada.

It did not take long for Frida to become recognized among her friends as someone with skills that could help with simple tasks most of us take for granted. Frida’s knowledge of accounting and fluency in both Mandarin and English made her invaluable to her friends who could not understand their Realtors, accountants, attorneys, financial planners, or any other individual or company that provided goods or services. Without Frida, they were virtually imprisoned. Often confined to certain communities, occupations, and social groups defined by language, culture, or social codes, they were marginalized despite being legal residents or naturalized citizens. A call to their friend Frida, who could assist and watch over them, frequently led to the ability to navigate around the above listed obstacles.

Emily Higby explains ACRC objectives.
Photo by Sean Taylor

One day Frida spoke with Emily Higby, an acquaintance who also had a knack for helping friends navigate cultural and language barriers. They discussed centralizing their collective abilities in a community resource center. Emily mentioned the idea to another friend, registered nurse Sujitra (Sue) Yamkoksoung, and Las Vegas’s Asian Community Resource Center was born.

The Asian Community Resource Center is a grassroots community organization that seeks to centralize multiple resources greatly needed by expatriates in Las Vegas. Until I went to the Center’s opening in late October, I thought that this was a “neat little project.” As law enforcement, I often come across victimized foreigners alone and afraid in a country far from home. I have always believed such people desperately need resources, but I still underestimated the community’s thirst for these ladies’ creation.

It was a sunny afternoon, and I expected to meet foreigners signing up for weekend games and activities in an attempt to increase their social circle and support system. I guess my idea of a community center was skewed. I did not expect to see the first monk I have ever met as he blessed the center in an elaborate ceremony steeped in tradition. I did not expect to rub elbows with some of Nevada’s political candidates and members of their staffs. Two months prior, in mid-August this place was just an idea! Now it was taking the community by storm.

Knowing many others have tried and failed at an attempt to create a much needed resource hub for our international community, I asked Emily and Frida to explain how they hope to surpass their predecessors. The women detailed a plan that illustrated their passion and determination to accomplish their purpose…a plan very likely to help them succeed. Put simply, they will keep intense focus on their objective, which is simple and straightforward: to assist anyone who needs their help.

I mentioned that the need may extend beyond the Asian community. Emily responded with, “We don’t care if you’re blue, or any other color — we care if you have a problem.” Emily also mentioned they knew that too much involvement in the political landscape has been detrimental to similar resource centers in the past. The new center has no political agenda — it exists only to help people navigate an unfamiliar culture or language.

Reflecting Las Vegas’s diverse multi-national population and adding much-needed services for our international residents, the Asian Community Resource Center is a welcome addition to a town not traditionally known for its community organizations.

If you would like to know more about the Asian Community Resource Center, check them out on their Facebook page.

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