Kim Chu recognized the language barriers for Chinese immigrants who enter NYU Downtown Hospital for treatment or volunteer purposes. She became the first Chinese volunteer at the hospital and translates for patients and doctors. When she began, she worked full-time, but still found time to volunteer on weekday evenings and weekends. She started more than 30 years ago, and today, she is still an active volunteer at this hospital. She is now retired, but comes in at 6am several times per week to work in the Emergency Room.
NYU Downtown Hospital (NYUDH) is situated in a community area where most Chinese immigrants settle in the United States. Therefore, NYUDH serves as a primary health care facility for these Chinese residents. Bilingual support is necessary and crucial for the hospital to provide its services to these individuals and the community. Bilingual support has not always been available at NYUDH. Years ago, Chinese volunteers were virtually non-existent, and the number of hired interpreters in out-numbered by the needs of the hospital by more than a thousand times. Without interpreter help, hospital staff has extreme difficulty in conveying medical procedures to these patients and making inquiries into their medical history.
In 1965, when Kim Chu started volunteering at NYUDH, most patients were first generation Chinese immigrants and had no concept of volunteerism. In her 34 years of service, Chu has helped to reduce the language and cultural barriers and is continually bridging the gap of the Chinese community and NYUDH in health care. Her major responsibility is still being a Cantonese translator as well as a “hostess” of the hospital. As a hostess she directs patients and visitors to appropriate departments. She also contributes her service at the information desk and answers inquiries from the general public.
Kim Chu’s volunteer service has paved the way for many Chinese volunteers at NYUDH. Currently, NYUDH has more than 300 Chinese American volunteers. In addition to helping the staff and patients, Chu also trains new volunteers.