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Teng recognized with Philly Hero Award

April 13, 2021

Helen Teng HeadshotOn April 6, Helen L. Teng, PhD, was honored during the Mayor's Day of Service Recognition award ceremony for her volunteer contributions to the South East Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition (SEAMAAC). Recognizing Teng, along with 14 other honorees, the city and the mayor paid tribute to those who have made a positive impact in their communities through national and volunteer service. The five award categories were the Philly Hero Award; Youth Hero Award (honorees are 18 years and younger); Mayor's Distinguished National Service Award; Mayor's Distinguished National Service Alumni Award; and the Greater Philadelphia Corporate Volunteer Council's Distinguished Corporate Volunteer. Teng received the Philly Hero Award and was nominated by Dominic Brennan, volunteer coordinator at SEAMAAC.

“Helen immediately came to mind,” says Brennan as he received the call for nominations for the award, “she’s one of the kindest people that I have had the pleasure to meet, who really understands the social complexity in the world we live, which is so important in this moment.”

Teng began volunteering at the beginning of the pandemic with SEAMAAC assisting with a hunger relief program, which provided, packed and delivered groceries to primarily elderly Asian community members. “Giving back to the people of Philadelphia in my community, who are immigrants, and who have been disproportionately impacted by social determinants of health. …it feels like I’m doing my part,” says Teng.

“Helen was one of the first volunteers to rise to the call from SEAMAAC,” says Thoai Nguyen, chief executive officer of SEAMAAC. “She is fierce in her analysis of our social environment and practical in her approach to her demonstration to fighting inequity.”

What started as packing and delivering food, grew into partnerships across the city to include Share Food, Step Up to the Plate, South Philly Barbacoa/215 People’s Kitchen, Broad Street Ministry, USDA Farm to Families Program, Fishadelphia, Philabundance, Sharing Excess, Caring for Friends and Novick Urban Farm. These groups and individuals came together to help those facing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volunteer work has always been important to Teng, and she contributes across many areas in the city of Philadelphia, including civic engagement, addressing food insecurity, and providing care. Teng says, “people are depending on us. It’s all about helping someone else.” Her advice for future volunteers: “make sure you are passionate about the organization that you are volunteering for before you get started.”

“Something that made Helen stand out,” says Brennan, “not only is she dedicated to SEAMAAC and the programming across the organization, but she is incredibly dedicated to all her work, helping students, volunteering with the Chinatown Clinic, and I am in awe of her passion and compassion.”

Teng is an assistant clinical professor in undergraduate nursing at Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. She is the course chair for Population Health Concepts and has taught Relationship Based Care and Pharmacology I. For her doctoral dissertation, Teng explored the lived experience of recently immigrated low-income aging Chinese men and their engagement with the U.S. healthcare system. Her research interests include, Asian immigrant health, health disparities and nursing education.

SEAMAAC stands as one of the oldest and largest refugee-founded agencies in the region with a workforce of over 80% bi/multi-lingual staff serving constituencies from as many as 18 distinct linguistic communities.” The mission is “to support and serve immigrants and refugees and other politically, socially and economically marginalized communities as they seek to advance the condition of their lives in the United States.” Through education, health and social services, and community development, SEAMAAC commits to “serving people regardless of race or national origins. …in building a stronger society based on the principles of justice and equity for all.”