Hip Wah was founded in 1984 by parents Kalei Inn Lam and Shirlaine Kee Baldwin who wanted to create a summer enrichment program that encouraged strong self-image and identity through Chinese and Chinese-American cultural studies. This included developing Chinese speaking, reading, and writing skills, and providing exposure to Chinese arts and culture. The first program was located at the Berkeley Chinese Community Church. In 1984, there was one class. Today, there are seven classes and nearly 140 campers.
Since 1991, Susan Tom has served in many roles at Hip Wah: parent, Site Director, board member. While serving as Site Director, Susan, who is a long-time educator, and our teachers developed the special Hip Wah curriculum that is rich on learning, but doesn’t forget that summer should be fun. Susan continues with Hip Wah to this day as a special advisor to the Board.
“Hip Wah” translates to “cooperation among the overseas Chinese.” The program has evolved over time to mirror our changing Chinese community. The community may include those who can trace their roots to immigrants who joined the Gold Rush or were detained on Angel Island, more recent immigrants from China, Hong Kong Taiwan, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia, or second or third generation Chinese-Americans. Hip Wah has also been recognized as an important resource for American parents of Chinese-born children as a way to connect adoptees to their birth heritage.