Champions of Change Blog

  • Becoming the Voice You Wish Had Been There for You When You Needed It

    Daphne Izer

    Daphne Izer is being honored as a Transportation Ladders of Opportunity Champion of Change.

    When I started what quickly became a full-time job as a truck safety advocate, I never imagined being here today. I am honored to be chosen as a White House Champion of Change, and I hope that every person who worked alongside me and with Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) knows that they share in this award. Their support of our mission to reduce truck driver fatigue and shepherd a requirement for electronic logging devices (ELDs) through rulemaking will help to reduce truck crashes, save lives, and prevent debilitating injuries.

    Truck safety advocacy is a David and Goliath-type battle. We’ve often found ourselves on the other side of issues facing industries and corporations with tremendous funds and considerable work forces. However, we learned early on that what we lack in resources we make up for with our volunteers’ and their families’ abundant heart and dedication. This transcends dollars and numbers and ensures that our voices are heard and our concerns addressed.

    Twenty years ago this May, my husband Steve and I founded PATT after a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his 80,000-pound rig, killing four innocent teenagers and seriously, permanently injuring one more. One of those killed was our son Jeff. As a result of this horrific, preventable crash, four beautiful teenagers: Jeff, age 17; Angie, age 16; Dawn Marie, age 15; and Katie, age 14, were killed. Linda, age 15, survived but was seriously injured. Five families and a tight-knit community suffered incomparable personal loss as a result of a single tired trucker. 

    Steve and I were heartbroken, and our grief deepened when we learned that truck driver fatigue was a known safety issue going as far back as the 1930’s. Our grief soon turned into anger when we realized no one was there to fight for our son and other victims of truck crashes—a group that was far too many in number, on average 4,000 are killed and another 100,000 more are injured each year in truck crashes. The only way we thought we could survive our grief and anger was by taking action to make sure other families would not have to suffer a similar loss. For those that did suffer loss and injuries, we wanted to make sure that they would have the grief and support services, and information that we desperately needed, but did not have, when we tried to navigate the post-crash process by ourselves.

    Unfortunately, the number of fatigue-related truck crashes is high. Our ability to reach every family that needed us quickly grew beyond the capacity of PATT, even after I went part-time in my day job as a school nurse to dedicate more hours to PATT and our work. We needed help, and a solution came along when we were given the opportunity to join forces with Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) to form the Truck Safety Coalition. PATT grew from a Maine grassroots group meeting around our kitchen table to a nationally recognized organization working through the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC).

    On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which included a mandate for rulemaking for ELDs in all commercial vehicles. After nearly two decades advocating for a requirement for the use of ELDS, our voices were finally being heard. The ELD rule will accurately record truck driver hours behind the wheel, prevent the falsification of paper log books, reduce stopping time for review of hours of service, and as a result help to reduce truck driver fatigue and fatigue-related truck crashes.

    Attaining the rule for ELDs and being recognized by the White House are tremendous but bittersweet rewards. I know that these victories will help to educate the public and lawmakers about truck safety issues and will help to keep other families whole. This is everything that I have hoped for in our work, but, it is also a reminder of how much we lost.

    PATT and its partners, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), are dedicated to reducing the number of preventable deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes, providing compassionate support to truck crash survivors and families of truck crash victims, and educating the public, policymakers, and media about truck safety issues.

    Daphne Izer is the Founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT).

  • From Activist to Scholar of Transportation and Economic Opportunity

    Evelyn Blumenberg

    Evelyn Blumenberg is being honored as a Transportation Ladders of Opportunity Champion of Change.

    I am honored to be a White House Champion of Change and join the many other impressive leaders in being recognized. 

    I have devoted my life’s work to alleviating poverty in the U.S. As the daughter of immigrants, I’ve seen first-hand the many obstacles families face in striving for economic mobility and stability. From an early age, I was committed to making life better for those struggling to fit in, to survive, to prosper. My early professional career included working with clients to obtain needed social services and organizing in low-income communities to effect economic policy change.

    After many years of 80-hour weeks and sleeping on strangers’ couches, I returned to school at UCLA to get a Master’s degree in urban planning. My motivation was to gain a better understanding of the problems facing low-income communities and to expand my repertoire of tools needed to address these problems. UCLA’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning was the perfect home for my interests in social justice as many of the faculty and students shared similar passions and concerns. In fact, it was such a terrific home that I decided to stay on for a PhD. 

    My commitment to urban poverty research—and UCLA—persists. I am currently a Professor of Urban Planning in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The concerns motivating my research are unchanged from my days as a community organizer, but today I play a different role. My teaching and research examine many dimensions of poverty and low-wage labor markets; it is through my published research and my terrific students that I seek to enable others to effectively organize for change.

    Early in my research career, a colleague (Professor Paul Ong) and I examined the relationship between welfare usage and spatial access to employment opportunities. At about the same time, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, reforming welfare into a time-limited program that requires welfare recipients to make rapid transitions into the labor market. Based on my earlier research, it seemed likely that access to transportation could play an important role in linking low-income women to job opportunities.

    This insight prompted a series of research projects on the role of transportation in the welfare-to-work transition. Now, more than 15 years later, I continue to conduct research on the links among transportation access, employment, and poverty. Certainly, public transit is essential to the mobility of families with limited access to automobiles, particularly in cities. However, my research shows that for most low-income families, a car can be the difference between having a job or remaining unemployed. Cars enable relatively speedy travel over long distances, the ability to make intervening stops at day care centers and grocery stores, and safety when traveling at night.

    My work showing the overwhelming benefits of car access for poor people has sometimes gotten me in hot water with environmentalists. I am deeply sympathetic with the efforts of many – including those in my own field of urban planning – who work tirelessly to reduce the environmental harms of car-dependence. Yet it shouldn’t surprise anyone that after a century of mostly car-focused urban and suburban development in the U.S., not having a car puts people at a considerable disadvantage – especially in suburban and outlying areas. In an era of growing income inequality, it would be unwise and unfair to pursue our environmental goals at the expense of those families who most need cars as one rung in their ladder of opportunity.

    Dr. Evelyn Blumenberg is a Professor and Chair of Urban Planning at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.

  • Converting Our Fleet of Ships to Natural Gas

    Anthony Chiarello

    Anthony Chiarello is being honored as a Transportation Ladders of Opportunity Champion of Change.

    I’m fourth generation in the shipping business and am in my 35th year in the maritime and logistics industry. To be honored for leading the movement to natural gas as a marine fuel is both exciting and humbling.

    When we announced TOTE would be the first U.S. maritime company to convert our fleet of ships to natural gas, we knew we were in a unique position to create major change in the U.S. transportation industry.

    Change is often fueled by challenge. The challenges posed to our company by the North American Emissions Control Area quickly became an opportunity to lead the industry to cleaner fuels beyond diesel. We’ve been bullish in our statements that we believe all new ships built for the U.S. domestic trades will burn liquid natural gas (LNG) as fuel. The response from other maritime companies has been nothing short of a tidal shift; orders for LNG ship construction accelerated after we announced plans to convert our ships that serve Alaska and build new ships, the first container ships in the world to be powered by LNG, for Puerto Rico.

    As a Jones Act domestic carrier, we’re uniquely positioned to create real change in the supply conundrum -- availability of fuel is a big hurdle for most transportation sectors to change over to clean burning natural gas. Our regular service routes create enough of a steady demand to entice fuel partners to build liquefaction plants in our ports of call -- thus making LNG supply available to others in those markets. Supply in Jacksonville, Florida and Tacoma, Washington will serve the Southeast and Pacific Northwest with natural gas that can be used for ships, trucks, and rail.

    As more maritime and transportation companies move to natural gas, the benefits will grow exponentially. The impetus was improving air quality, but we also know that moving to a domestically sourced fuel will increase reliability for our critical supply chain and the environmental and operational safety record of LNG is unmatched.

    Despite 40,000 American ships and 500,000 mariners operating in our coastal and inland waterways, marine shipping is largely unseen as Americans are more disconnected from commercial U.S. ports. What most Americans don’t realize is that 90 percent of all consumer freight cargo moves on ships at some point in the supply chain. I’m hopeful that this award will bring some well-deserved recognition to the maritime industry as the most environmentally friendly, safest and economical mode of freight transportation. 

    Change of this magnitude requires strong support from partners and regulatory agencies: EPA, helping to facilitate engine conversions; the U.S. Coast Guard, working to create new regulations; Wärtsilä, designing new LNG engines for our ships; General Dynamics NASSCO, building a ship that’s never been built before; partners creating fuel infrastructure; and our parent company Saltchuk, which is both able and willing to invest to “do the right thing."

    It is an honor to stand among the 2014 Transportation Champions of Change representing TOTE and Saltchuk. My colleagues and I are proud of our investments into new technology as a reflection of our commitment to the people and customers of Alaska and Puerto Rico. We’re equally pleased to help move the U.S. toward natural gas as a marine transportation fuel while providing the most advanced, safe, reliable service possible.

    Anthony Chiarello is President and CEO of TOTE.

  • Celebrating Champions for Health in the AAPI Community

    For too long, many members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community have lacked access to quality, affordable health care. Consider these statistics:

    • One in four Korean Americans is uninsured;
    • Nearly 40% of Asian American women over the age of 40 don’t get routine mammograms;
    • One in four Asian Americans over the age of 18 – and one in three Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders – has not seen a doctor in the last year.

    The Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity to provide nearly two million uninsured Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with quality, affordable health care. In addition, eight out of ten uninsured AAPIs may be eligible for financial assistance through Medicaid, CHIP, or tax credits in the Health Insurance Marketplace. That’s why, according to a report released by HHS last week, of enrollees in the Marketplace, 8% were Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

    Across the country, organizations and individuals stepped up to do their part to educate the AAPI community about the Affordable Care Act. And last month, the White House and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) honored the following 11 advocates and community leaders as “Champions of Change” for their work to educate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders about the Affordable Care Act:

    • Teresita Batayola, CEO, International Community Health Services (Seattle, WA)
    • Sophie Duong, CEO/President, Nationwide Viet Radio (Falls Church, VA)
    • Howard J. Eng, Assistant Professor and Director of the Southwest Border Rural Health Research Center, The University of Arizona College of Public Health (Tucson, AZ)
    • Minja Hong, Program Coordinator of Healthcare Access Services, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York (New York, NY)
    • Priscilla Huang, Action for Health Justice (Washington, DC)
    • Amy Jones, Director of Health & Social Services, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition, Inc. (Philadelphia, PA)
    • Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Executive Director, South Asian Network (Artesia, CA)
    • Ranjana Paintal, Program Manager, Asian Health Coalition of Illinois (Chicago, IL)
    • Cathy Phan, Affordable Care Act Program Coordinator, Asian American Health Coalition - HOPE Clinic (Houston, TX)
    • Bruce Thao, Director of Programs, Hmong American Partnership and Hmong National Development (St. Paul, MN)
    • Cathy Vue, Program Coordinator, Asian Services In Action, Inc. (Cleveland, OH)

    Gautam Raghavan is Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement.

  • Serving AAPI Communities in the Midwest

    Ranjana Paintal

    Ranjana Paintal is being honored as a Health in the AAPI Community Champion of Change.

    I am honored to be chosen along with my fellow counterparts as a Champion of Change. Over the last year, I have served as program manager for the Asian Health Coalition’s partnership consortium around education, outreach and enrollment to underserved Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) communities in Illinois, which has been made possible through the Affordable Care Act. My participation at the local level has been fulfilling both on a personal and professional level in this landmark national effort. However, this award magnifies this sense of fulfillment because it furthers one of our agency’s most significant goals- to bring attention to the challenges of the marginalized immigrant and refugee communities in Illinois. 

    “No community should be invisible to its government” said President Barack Obama when he unveiled his vision to meet the growing and unmet needs of this country’s AAPI community a few years ago.  These words have been central to our mission at the Asian Health Coalition as many of the immigrant communities that we work with have historically lacked health insurance and access to basic preventative care.

    Illinois is home to the 5th largest AAPI population in the nation and also the largest in the Midwest region. As more than two-thirds of AAPIs in Illinois are immigrants, the passage of the Affordable Care Act presents an amazing opportunity to address the needs of the communities that our consortium serves and allows them to have access to health care services which we regard as a basic human right.

    Our consortium of community-based organizations and their certified navigators have been cultural brokers in the education, outreach and enrollment of their community members. Right from the beginning, our navigators educated each of the unique populations that they served about the Affordable Care Act and how it could help them, and then followed up to ensure that those needing assistance in the enrollment process received the help that they needed. Culturally sensitive and language appropriate educational materials were created with feedback from our community partners; ethnic news media outlets, and key stakeholders including community leaders were educated to help spread the word within their networks.  As a result, these communities had access to simple and jargon-free information in their native language, were encouraged to sign up from those they trusted most (faith leaders, community leaders and elders), and had trustworthy spokespeople from within their community who they could rely on to navigate them through the enrollment process. Thanks to the efforts of my colleagues and our partners, we had an incredibly successful enrollment period, surpassing our enrollment goals and educating thousands of individuals.

    As a mother of 2 young children it gives me peace of mind to know that with the help of my health insurance I am better able to take care of myself so that I can take care of them. I look forward to the day when every parent in this country can say this, no matter what community they live in, what language they speak and where they are from.  I’m proud that I was able to play a role in this historic initiative that will hopefully bring us to that day.

    Ranjana Paintal is Program Manager for Asian Health Coalition of Illinois

  • Making Health Care a Reality

    Priscilla Huang

    Priscilla Huang is being honored as a Health in the AAPI Community Champion of Change.

    Of the over 2 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) who are uninsured, Bishnu Kamar was just one of the many. She was one of the many people who lived in fear of what might happen when they get sick and one of the many who could not afford quality coverage no matter how hard she worked as a social worker in her Philadelphia community.

    Through the Affordable Care Act, Bishnu was able to get covered and it now offers new opportunities for better health for millions of other AAPIs just like her. This is why Action for Health Justice was created.  It was co-founded by my organization, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles.

    We launched this national, coordinated initiative because we wanted to ensure the Affordable Care Act was not just a promise, but a reality for AAPIs. With communities spanning 50 different ethnicities and speaking more than 100 different languages, the only way to ensure success was to develop culturally and linguistically tailored outreach strategies.

    Together, we tackled the challenge head-on. We leveraged the expertise and reach of national partners and the collective forces of more than 70 community-based organizations and health centers, implementing a multi-part strategy rooted in and driven by community need. On the ground in 21 states, we channeled our energies to where assistance was most needed: immigrant families facing complex eligibility questions and those with language barriers. Most importantly, we knew that providing education would not be enough. To be the most effective, we combined education through trusted messengers with new resources, coordinated efforts tailored specifically to help limited-English-proficient Americans get covered and worked closely with enrollment assisters to monitor and troubleshoot the enrollment process.

    From providing tens of thousands of AAPIs with information, to large town halls in California and beyond, we have gone to where our communities live, work, play and worship to promote the first open enrollment period. For many of the people we helped, Action for Health Justice partners were the first and only source of assistance they received.

    Our work would never have been possible without the tireless efforts of our community partners and health centers. When I hear coverage stories like Bishnu’s, or the many others Action for Health Justice helped, the Affordable Care Act becomes a little more real. With the first enrollment period behind us, we at Action for Health Justice remain committed to educating AAPIs and all communities about their health care options now and beyond. Action for Health Justice is a testament to the power and strength that can come from collective action. I am humbled to be a part of that and honored to make health care a reality for so many.

    Priscilla Huang is Policy Director for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, an organization that co-founded Action for Health Justice along with the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles. 

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