DENVER — The owners of Third Culture Bakery and Matcha Café recently created safety kits to help Asian Americans who are concerned about the recent escalation in violent incidents against the community.
“We were donating to the GoFundMe pages of the victims families but aside from that, we just felt like we weren’t doing enough, so we started compiling safety kits,” said co-owner Wenter Shyu.
Shyu and his partner and co-owner Sam Butarbutar said the kits include one very loud key chain alarm, one key chain pepper spray, a wristband, and neck lanyard.
Directions for the kits come in multiple languages including Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish.
Shyu said they approached senior homes and community centers to see who might be interested in receiving a safety kit.
“We actually originally thought we were going to make a few hundred kits and just pass them out ourselves. They actually came back with a request of over 6,000 kits and that was mid-March,” said Shyu. “Now we are actively fundraising through our website, collecting donations to just purchase all the materials that are needed and we are now passing them out to all the senior homes directly.”
Shyu said they currently have requests for 10,000 kits from all over the country.
But Butarbutar said some of those requests come with heartbreaking stories.
“When we first started doing it, we weren’t sure if it was appropriate to have people carry around pepper spray. But a lot of our friends who are little older and have kids came in with their stories saying ‘Wow, I wish I would’ve had this when my son was attacked or when my grandma was attacked so they could have protected themselves,’” Butarbutar said.
Shyu and Butarbutar said they just want to provide members of their community with a way to feel protected from possible future attacks.
According to The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 of the nation's largest cities are up 164% over the last year.
Ninety-five incidents have been reported already in just the first four months of 2021.
The most recent incident happened in San Francisco where two elderly Asian women stabbed in broad daylight.