Language Not A Barrier with Red Cross Help

Story and Photo by Greta Gustafson/American Red Cross


Calvin Lee (r) with Yong Qiang Liang and Cai Juan Deug in front of artwork by their two children, ages 6 and 9.


The American Red Cross works hard to touch every family that has been affected by a disaster. When the Red Cross came across a Chinese-American community in Goldsboro, N.C. that needed a little extra help with the recovery process, they called upon Calvin Lee, a bilingual Red Crosser from Kansas.

Lee originally came to North Carolina as tech support for the operation, but as he was leaving the relief effort he was recruited to help these particular families due to his fluency in Mandarin and Cantonese.

“I extended my stay here to help those families,” said Lee. “Translating for them to help them apply to FEMA and help work through other aspects of the disaster.”

Lee is an immigrant from Hong Kong himself, and understands how challenging it can be for people who come to the United States without speaking the language. One of the seven families he has spent time helping just came to the country about four months ago and speak minimal English.

When asked his largest frustration during the floods, Yong Qiang Liang said, “the language barrier.” “We felt helpless,” added his wife, Cai Juan Deug.

“I’m trying to be there all the time,” Lee said on his work with the community. “Be their friend and also be their caseworker so I can help them.”

And, with Lee’s help, this family of four was able to receive financial aid from FEMA to repair their home and move forward following Hurricane Matthew.

“We are very thankful to Calvin and to the Red Cross,” said Cai Juan Deug.



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