Encouraging civic participation: California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative

Encouraging civic participation: California Health Nail Salon Collaborative

California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative (CA HNSC) is no stranger to advocating for those who are historically marginalized. Originally founded in 2005 as a health clinic in Oakland, the Collaborative was one of the first to recognize the link between growing health problems among Vietnamese nail salon workers and the dangerous conditions in nail salon environments. Since then, the group has worked tirelessly through outreach, leadership development, policy advocacy and community research to vastly improve the health, safety and workplace rights for nail salon workers in California, 70% of whom are of Vietnamese descent.

“We really see the nail salon as an important site of community change,” said Lisa Fu, director of the Collaborative. “We focus on reaching manicurists specifically because they tend to be low-wage workers and may have limited literacy. Information about their rights, their health and other issues in the community may not be reaching them.”

In 2020, Silicon Valley Community Foundation awarded CA HNSC with a grant to support the group’s efforts in boosting civic engagement in the Vietnamese community, a population that is historically underrepresented in civic participation.  Using the grant funding, the Collaborative created a racial justice toolkit and mobilized its members through phone banking and canvassing to get out the vote and participate in the census.

This year, CA HNSC will use funding from SVCF’s Community Catalyst Fund to continue the momentum of its civic engagement work from 2020, including creating Vietnamese language resources, improving digital communications and offering leadership development training and political education.

In addition to promoting civic engagement, the Collaborative continues to devote resources to helping its members through the COVID-19 pandemic, who have faced  challenging circumstances with fluctuating regulations about nail salon operations.

“People were having zero income,” Fu said. “There have been pockets of time when people have had nothing.”

CA HNSC created an emergency aid fund for its members, and its staff helped members with applications for government grants and loans, as well as unemployment compensation.

“We helped over 350 people apply for unemployment when COVID first hit,” Fu said. “Everything is in English, and it’s difficult to navigate.”

The Collaborative is one of 22 recipients of a recent round of SVCF’s Community Catalyst Fund grants that support civic participation. Many recipients, like CA HNSC, had previously built up their civic participation programs in 2020 in preparation of the census and the election.

“We wanted to make sure those groups could continue that work and build on what they had done,” said Jack Mahoney, senior program officer for movement and power building at SVCF.

The Community Catalyst Fund grant program emphasizes funding for BIPOC-led organizations and those with annual budgets of less than $1 million. It is part of a broader strategy by SVCF to achieve systemic change in Silicon Valley —including in the nonprofit community —by responding to the needs of BIPOC and low-income communities.

Upcoming grant rounds from the Community Catalyst Fund will focus on arts and culture, faith and neighborhoods. In addition to providing support to local nonprofits, SVCF’s grantmaking process will help foster connections between SVCF’s donors and San Mateo and Santa Clara County nonprofits.

Learn more about SVCF’s grantees here.

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