As sounds of children jumping rope and playing the childhood game “Red Light, Green Light” could be heard in the background, attendees at the Asian Health Advocacy Alliance Wellness Field Day stopped to write affirmations and pieces of advice.
Written on slips of colorful paper, one prompt read, “What advice would you give to your freshman self?”
On Friday, the UNC Asian Health Advocacy Alliance partnered with HBO Max and Yaya Tea for the wellness day event, which featured activities hosted by UNC Counseling and Psychological Services, the Vietnamese Student Association and WE ARE SAATH at UNC-CH. The activities included badminton, double dutch rope, jianzi, slime-making and more.
For senior Angela Chen, a co-president of the AHAA, the affirmation station and the wellness event were a perfect opportunity to capture the advice she thinks UNC students, especially underclassmen, need to hear most.
“I read one of their slips, and the one that I read I think perfectly captures what I would have said,” Chen said. “It was something along the lines of, ‘No matter how stressful or crazy this challenge is that you may be facing currently, in six months time, it will be like nothing to you.’”
The Asian Health Advocacy Alliance strives to improve the overall health of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in North Carolina through advocacy, education and community engagement.
Junior Hayden Park, the events chairperson of AHAA, said she joined the organization because of her own experiences with mental health.
“Personally, what drew me to this club is that I have struggled with mental health since I was in high school, and I’ve also struggled with cultural competency and Western medicine where a lot of people don’t think there’s disparities with Asian American health,” Park said. “Especially with my family, who has a language barrier when talking to doctors — my parents go to Korea every time they have a health problem because they don’t trust doctors here.”
Although AHAA doesn’t focus on students specifically, the difficult semester UNC has experienced has opened the door to new opportunities for student engagement.
AHAA has been instrumental in making Park feel included and meeting her diverse needs as a minority student, she said.
Senior Jacqueline Gu, a co-president of AHAA, and Chen both said they were excited to work with Irang Kim, a post-MSW social work fellow at CAPS, whom they feel can relate to some of their cultural experiences as members of the AAPI community.
“Our social work fellow, Irang Kim, has been integral in working alongside of the AHAA for this event and volunteered to facilitate a de-stress station where students can play traditional Korean games, learn origami, color and use stress relieving sensory items,” CAPS psychologist Cherish Williams said in a statement via UNC Media Relations. “It is our hope that our AAPI student community feels supported and knows that CAPS is committed to providing traditional and non-traditional mental health resources to our students.”
Gu noted the intersections of her cultural identity and mental health challenges.
“The motivation for this organization both for Angela and I really came from our experiences as first-generation immigrants, seeing the struggles that our parents had navigating the health care system and also our own struggles not being able to mediate different understandings of health that might come to a head with the American health care system,” Gu said.
Although these disparities have been consistent over time, Gu also pointed out the additional pressure COVID-19 added to these challenges.
“Also grappling with the effects of COVID on our community and thinking about how, once COVID hit, a lot of the disparities were really saliently seen through things like vaccine inequity and the amount of businesses affected,” she said.
As finals approach and stress levels rise, the organizers and attendees of Wellness Field Day wanted to take the opportunity to remind students of the importance of wellness.
“Wellness is anything that lets people take care of themselves, enjoy themselves and remind themselves that they’re not just here to study, which, I mean, we are here to study, but there is more to life than just studying,” junior Sebastian Aragon, who attended the event, said. “You have to remember to take care of yourself, your friends and the people around you.”
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