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Member Spotlight: Rachel 'HL' Lau, Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice

Before their current role as Program Manager at Yarrow, Rachel was the Project Coordinator for the Speak My Language project, where they supported youth producers in the process of creating multilingual radio docs featuring low-income Chinese seniors and their experiences with BC's healthcare system.

Click here to learn more about Speak My Language. 

BCHC staff caught up with Rachel to learn more about the Speak My Language project and the work of Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice. 

How did you get involved with Yarrow and the Speak My Language project?

As someone who grew up in Vancouver’s Chinatown, I always felt like the neighbourhood was my second home. In fact, Yarrow Society’s office is located in the same building where my mother used to run her business. As an adult, I reconnected with the neighbourhood as a volunteer with Yarrow because I learned about the needs of our seniors in an ever-evolving neighbourhood deeply affected by gentrification. My involvement with Yarrow and the Speak My Language project is reflective of my desire to build intergenerational relationships with seniors and develop community power so that we may work towards a more equitable world where everyone is taken care of.

What was it like to work on Speak My Language? Was anything particularly rewarding?

I had the privilege of witnessing the stories of Chinese seniors who faced language barriers in accessing healthcare in BC and their resilience in the face of these obstacles. It is not often that we are given the chance to hear the stories of Chinese senior women whose experiences are often invalidated. It was also an honour to hold space for the intergenerational relationships between the youth producers and seniors that blossomed during this project. When Speak My Language came to an end, it was clear that the youth and seniors were pleasantly surprised by how much they learned from each other.

What do you hope listeners will take away from the radio doc series?  

I hope that listeners, through the Speak My Language project, will gain insight about how inaccessible this healthcare system is to non-English speaking people in their communities. These documentaries were designed so that monolingual English-speaking listeners can experience what it is like to have one's language deprioritized.

The Chinese seniors we meet often have a cheerful demeanour, but in reality, they are navigating several barriers in accessing healthcare. My hope is that listeners see both the injustice of the healthcare system as well as the joy and resilience shared by these seniors despite these barriers.

What is next for you, Yarrow, and the community you work with?

Speak My Language marked the beginning of Yarrow’s Language Access to Healthcare Campaign (LAHC). As our annual fundraiser comes to a close on March 20, we are hoping to refocus our efforts on LAHC and work with our community to envision a more just and accessible healthcare system in BC. 

To listen to the Speak My Language radio docs, click here.