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Our History


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 up to 130 students.


Susan Tom has served in many roles at Hip Wah over several decades. As our former Site Director, she, along with our teachers, developed the special Hip Wah curriculum that is rich on learning, but doesn’t forget that summer should be fun for the children. 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 may be more recent immigrants from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia. Hip Wah is also well regarded as an important resource for American parents of Chinese-born children as a way to connect adoptees to their birth heritage.


Hip Wah is a recipient of the Wa Sung Community Service Club grant in recognition of its contribution to educate our community. Wa Sung has generously helped fund new musical instruments and library books.


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