Xiaoping Su didn’t know it would take more than five hours to fly from California to Washington, D.C., as she had never traveled outside of the Golden State since moving to the U.S. from China.
“America is so big,” Xiaoping Su told The Standard in Cantonese. “This trip is so special to me and my daughter.”
Su and her 9-year-old daughter, Fifianna, who live in a single-room occupancy (SRO) building in San Francisco’s Chinatown, were selected to attend the White House’s annual Easter Egg Roll party. They received the invitation in early April, but the cost of the airfare was prohibitive for them.
However, the community turned out generously after a fundraising effort for them was launched, triggering a wave of coverage. Over $10,000 was raised from 134 donors, including Asian American Culture Infinity Foundation, entrepreneur Chris Foley, the Rose Pak Community Fund and the Union Square Alliance. Supervisors Myrna Melgar and Aaron Peskin also donated.
Mother and daughter flew to D.C. on Easter Sunday for the April 10 event, and returned the following day.
In D.C., they stayed in a hotel where, among other perks, they finally had a private bathroom. In a typical SRO, kitchens and bathrooms are communal and may serve entire floors. Moreover, units are often 100 square feet or less, and families squeeze into every possible space.
“Fifianna can jump on the bed!” Su said of her hotel room. “In the SRO, we use bunk beds and don’t have this space for her to do so.”
Sandy Jiang, a staff member of the Chinatown Community Development Center who traveled with the Sus as an interpreter, said they want to devote the unspent portion of the money to other SRO families.
At the White House event, Su said Fifianna enjoyed all the activities, especially the educational booths. They saw President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, and visited the Washington Monument.
Fifianna, a third-grader at Gordon J. Lau Elementary School in Chinatown, hopes to come back to the White House.
“I hope she will study hard and become somebody one day,” Su said. “So she can help the community like the community is helping us now.”
Han Li can be reached at [email protected]