Tabitha Mui, Chinese American Service League
Tabitha Mui leaves her home every morning to go to her workplace in the Chinatown community where there are individuals who need her referral assistance for hepatitis treatment, men to convince that quitting smoking is not the end of the world, and women to console in domestic violence matters. Not a bad effort for a dedicated woman with a firm belief that she and others like her, can truly serve as catalysts in making a difference in their own lives, in the lives of their families and in the community!
Born in Hong Kong, Tabitha came to the United States in 2008 and graduated from the University of Washington’s Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis with a Master’s degree in Social Work. A chance introduction to the Chinese American Service League (CASL) by the school’s Dean in the summer of 2010 led to a meeting with CASL President, Bernada Wong, who herself is a former alum of the University. Tabitha was subsequently offered a position as Health Program Coordinator and has been working at CASL ever since.
In her role, Tabitha comes into contact with the Chinese immigrant diaspora China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. There are about more than 68,000 Chinese living in Cook County alone (2010 American Community Survey) and a large number of them live in the Chicago neighborhoods of Armor Square and Bridgeport. CASL is one of the largest social service agencies in the Midwest and serves nearly 17,000 clients annually.
Some of the challenges that Tabitha has observed in working with the community is the increasing demand for social services as a result of the growing immigrant population, lack of health insurance, and high health care costs exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure in Chicago’s health care delivery system. “Many (clients) still perceive health insurance as an added expense rather than an investment and necessity. I constantly encourage and educate them on the benefits of getting insurance as soon as possible and not to wait until a health problem comes up.”
Tabitha has collaborated closely with the Asian Health Coalition on multiple health programs and has most recently been working with the agency and its partners to reduce alcohol and tobacco abuse in the Chinatown community through the culturally relevant strategies in the Coalition for Asian Substance Abuse Prevention (CASAP). One of these initiatives included the development of first-Chinese language smoking cessation program adapted from the “Courage to Quit” curriculum from Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. Tabitha is currently the trainer for the program which is offered onsite at CASL and it has been well-received with a growing number of Chinese-speaking participants coming forward to sign up for the class with encouragement and support from family members and friends.
Although she could have chosen a variety of professions after graduation, Tabitha’s motivation for a mission-based role has been driven by her strong sense of responsibility and ability to identify and understand the unique issues faced by the underserved Chinese immigrant community.
And finally, what does she do to relax after a long week? Well interestingly enough, Tabitha loves music and attends events at the Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony. In addition, she’s also an accomplished player of the melodic Chinese Zither (“Gu Zheng”), a musical string instrument with movable bridges.