It’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic has led to the increase of hate crimes across the country. Last spring, the United Nations reported that there were more than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans in the U.S. in the span of just two months — many of them fueled by conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19.
What’s more disturbing about those hate crimes is an apparent target on elderly Asian Americans. According to Stop AAPI Hate — an organization committed to stopping hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — the group received 126 reports of hate crime incidents involving Asian Americans 60 years and older between March and December.
In recent weeks, ground zero for these attacks has been the Bay Area. Last week, a 64-year-old grandmother was assaulted and robbed after she used an ATM in San Jose.
In late January, an 84-year-old man died after he was shoved to the ground in San Francisco. Three days later, three more elderly Asian Americans were shoved to the ground in Oakland.
But while the high-profile attacks have demoralized many in the Bay Area, it’s inspired one group of volunteers to take action.
Compassion In Oakland is an organization that offers chaperones for elderly Asian Americans on walks and errands. According to CNN, nearly 300 people have volunteered to help with the project, which had a soft launch on Saturday.
"I wasn't intending to be some kind of vigilante," Compassion In Oakland founder Jacob Azevedo told CNN. "I just wanted to offer people some kind of comfort."
Anyone in need of a chaperone can visit the organization’s website and schedule time with a volunteer. Those signing up just need to provide a name, phone number, home address and destination address. Those in need can also call a hotline if they need to schedule a last-minute appointment.
The organization is also asking all volunteers to test negative for COVID-19 before registering, and to regularly get tested for the virus so as not to infect others in the community.
Azevedo says he hopes his small part can bring Oakland together.
"This is important because this community just needs healing," Azevedo told CNN. "There's a lot of racial tensions going on because of the previous president's rhetoric but in general our communities need healing. This is an issue that's been ongoing for a while."