Made in Uptown: Chinese Mutual Aid Association

Uptown’s Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA), founded 35 years in 1981 by Vietnamese refugees of ethnic Chinese descent, is an invaluable asset to Uptown’s immigrant community. Well-known for the comprehensive wrap-around social services it offers, the organization serves some 5,000 annually, serving many Chinese and Vietnamese clients, as well as East Africans, Eastern Europeans, and Latinos – from Uptown and beyond.
Uptown United chatted with Gisella Faggi, Manager of Civics and Community Integration, about CMAA’s work and plans for the future.

What’s new at CMAA? Recently, it partnered with the Lao-American Organization of Elgin on a second site in Elgin to expand CMAA’s in-home services program where elderly residents are paired with homemakers speaking their language. This both provides more culturally competent care and helps patients receive better care.

The organization has also been exploring social enterprise ideas, including Tiger Tutor, an ACT/SAT preparation service launched last summer offering one-on-one tutoring and group classes and even the Dim Sum & Then Some Uptown 5K race June 3rd.
CMAA also has a full slate of advocacy programs lined up, with numerous bus trips planned to Springfield – to help ensure its clients are represented and have a voice.

What else does CMAA do? There’s truly something for everyone here, including after-school for elementary and middle school students, financial and digital literacy, naturalization assistance, and activities for seniors. CMAA also has a robust workforce development pipeline, providing employment prep and placement to about 200 annually, connecting recent immigrants to resources and helping them acquire the necessary skills and cultural competency to succeed in American workplaces, helping them stay out of poverty in the process.

Also, CMAA serves 1,000-1,200 across the City of Chicago through the Illinois Community College Board-funded Adult Literacy Program, acting as the lead fiscal agent for a consortium of 15 community-based organizations to offer ESL and Civics classes to their clients. Many students in this program have employment-related goals.

CMAA also offers Young Woman Warriors, a mentoring program for adolescent first and second generation immigrant girls that pairs teens with professional women for career advice and guidance and lasts well into college.

CMAA even houses the Bosnian Herzegovinian American Community Center, a separate nonprofit organization that supports Chicago’s Bosnian Americans!

How to get involved? CMAA has many volunteering opportunities, including helping kids with homework, mentoring Young Woman Warriors, or ESL tutoring. The agency’s 3rd Annual Red Party is also coming up, which raises funds for CMAA’s work in Uptown and beyond.

Visit CMAA’s website, donate, or get involved – and help this Uptown asset stay vibrant for another 35 years to come.