Bridging Trust in Richmond’s Chinese Community

When James, an Empower Me Energy Mentor who is fluent in Mandarin, first pitched the idea of presenting an energy saving and home safety workshop to his church community, the idea was met with skepticism. Who's Empower Me? And why were we interested in engaging Richmond’s Chinese community?

James explained that Empower Me delivers free multilingual education about energy and home safety because we believe that everyone should be empowered to improve the comfort, safety, efficiency, and affordability of their homes. Because James is a trusted member of his community, his church leaders were willing to explore the opportunity. Their receptiveness highlights the irreplaceable role of Energy Mentors and demonstrates how trusting relationships underpin Empower Me’s success.

James' connection to his community created  an opportunity for members of his church to learn more about a new and unfamiliar topic: energy efficiency and home safety. Upon immigrating to Canada, many in James’ community were understandably focused on finding gainful employment and a good school for their children. With so many new priorities and an abundance of new experiences to navigate, home safety never emerged as a glaring priority.

This all changed during last year’s Spring Festival, also known as the Lunar New Year Celebrations, when a string of residential fires ignited in a number of Richmond homes inhabited by members of the Chinese community. It was clear to James that making home safety a priority was important to his community’s health and well-being.

In the wake of these fires, a handful of church leaders invited James and Empower Me to deliver a small workshop in June. The information session was well received, with church leaders offering positive feedback.

“They were surprised about how many things we can do to be safe at home,” explained James, who always strives to paint a bigger picture.

Describing the connection between safety, energy saving measures, and home comfort is an important part of James’ role. And it is clear that the impact he has on his community is immeasurable. Following this first workshop, a church deacon who’d purchased a house nearly eight years ago was immediately inspired. For eight years, a lack of knowledge kept him from changing his furnace filter. He didn’t know where, how, or why it should be changed.

“After our workshop, he realized the situation is serious,” James recalls. “He went straight to the hardware store and bought a new furnace filter, which he changed using the instructions we provided. Now he changes the filter every three to six months.”

Meanwhile, the church pastor also found himself leveraging new learnings. For a long time, he and his family had been living with mould. They figured it was nothing more than a nuisance and the cause of a foul smell. He was unaware that living with mould could lead to a variety of health problems and upon learning this information, made an informed decision to remediate. While remediation came at a cost, the pastor felt empowered; his decision was based on trustworthy information he knew would help keep him healthy and safe in the years to come.

After discovering the value of Empower Me’s workshops firsthand, the church leaders invited James to deliver another workshop to the broader community. In the years since, he has since connected with many members of the Chinese community in Richmond, educating on everything from how to pack a grab-and-go bag to testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.