Celebrating Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Posted by Enlivant support center on May 20, 2022

May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Enlivant is proud to celebrate! May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese citizens to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Most of the workers who laid the railroad tracks were Chinese immigrants.

To show our support of the Asian and Pacific Islanders on our team, Enlivant has donated $5,000 to Asian American Foundation (TAAF) to aid their mission, and we’re excited to share the stories and experiences of those on our team. Read on to learn more as we focus on building a connected, inclusive community within our organization and beyond! 

Swarnali (Nel) Lewis – Divisional Director of HR

Swarnali, who goes by Nel, is Bengali and is from West Bengal, a region in India best known for its distinct cuisine and sweet desserts. She has been with Enlivant for 6 years, and when she’s not working, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband!

What does it means for your to belong to the AAPI community and how does that empower you?

As a member of the South Asian community, I am proud of my culture, my history, and my people. Knowing what my grandparents and other immediate generations have done to survive the Indian Independence from British rule, the Bengali Famine of 1943, the wars, and attacks that have ravaged West Bengal and Bangladesh, I know that I have an obligation to make them proud and make sure that I live up to their incredibly high standards of success and integrity. I know what it took for my family to immigrate to the U.S. and how hard they had to work to make this country accept them.

Although it feels heavy, the weight of all their dreams and desires are the things that continue to empower me.

What is one thing you would like to highlight about your heritage?

We have a lot of pride about who we are and where we come from. Sometimes the world likes to remind us that that place is a developing country that has yet to compete with the big Western nations. However, our people have moved into the top ranks of business, healthcare, movies, etc. We are unashamedly who we are and represent the places our ancestors come from in a very deliberate way.

What does allyship look like to you in an inclusive workplace?

Allyship allows me the opportunity to not assimilate into all parts of American culture. I grew up here and I am very Americanized for the most part, but I should be allowed to be myself, with all its complexities as an Indian American and when you recognize that and allow for it, I feel more included by them.   

Jason Sanchez – Senior HR Manager

Jason has been with Enlivant for almost 6 years, and he’s one of the friendliest faces at the Support Center office in Chicago. He’s proud of his Filipino heritage and eager to celebrate AAPI Month. Both of his parents are originally from the Philippines, but they met in Illinois – and the rest is history! He currently resides in Chicago with his wife Dene and baby daughter Daya. 

What is one thing you would like to highlight about your heritage?

Other than the delicious food, my parents and my heritage have taught me that family will always be there to push me to be better, support me when in need, love me for who I am, and keep me in check. My family may not be the most affectionate or say “I Love You” when we say goodbye, but I never doubt our love as a family.  

What does allyship look like to you in an inclusive workplace?

Allyship in an inclusive workplace consists of two parts:

  • Listening – Each individual must be open to all new ideas, criticisms, and feedback as you seek to understand.

  • Taking Action – Each individual is responsible for owning the change they want to see.

People will always have their differences and opinions, but you have to find a safe space for people to be their authentic selves and be comfortable to speak their minds.

What songs or artists celebrate or honor your culture or heritage?

I love music, and music is a big part of my life, which I think I owe it to my mom since she always has music playing in the background. I love Apl.de.ap of the hip-hop group the “Black Eyed Peas” aka Allan Pineda Lindo.de(of).Angeles Pampanga. Allan Pineda Lindo was born in the Philippines, came to the U.S. at the age of 11, and was adopted by an American family at the age of 14 in Los Angeles. At the age of 13, he met Williams Adams (will.i.am) which grew into the foundation of the Black Eyed Peas.

The song “The APL Song” contains a chorus entirely in Tagalog, the main language spoken in the Philippines. The song tells the story of Allan’s first visit home and seeing how difficult life in the Philippines is for his family. His lyrics pay tribute to his mom back at home and how it feels good to back in the “Promise Land.” A large part to why he’s worked so hard to make it in the music industry was to support his family back home so they could have a better living situation. I see a lot of parallels to my dad’s story, where he is most happy when he’s able to visit his family in his small province in the Philippines. 

Sravani Gattupalli – IT Manager

Sravani has been with Enlivant for 4 years and she was born and raised in southern India before moving to the U.S. Family is extremely important to her, and her family started a YouTube channel together to carry on their traditions. Her daughters and husband perform Indian classical dance and folk songs, while Sravani films and edits. It’s a fun way for the family to bond!

Tell us about your background (ethnicity, family history, etc.).

I am from the Southern part of India in a small village near the Bay of Bengal. Born and brought up there. My village has about 500 people and a lot of natural resources. It was hard to get into new technology, my only source was reading books. Around 2000, the country was establishing colleges in rural places. 

I got a chance to study engineering in these colleges, and I was in the third class that graduated from the college I went to – and that is how I got into IT. 

The state government had a program for women students and was giving them job placements in corporate organizations. I was selected for the program and learned soft skills to help transition into the corporate workforce and culture. These programs allowed me to establish my career in IT. My mom didn’t finish school after 7th grade and although she didn’t finish her education, she was naturally intelligent. My mom always taught me to continue my education so that I could have more opportunities. 

What does it means for your to belong to the AAPI community and how does that empower you?

Given how I was raised by my parents, my values and character are rooted deep in Indian culture. It is who I am and who I will always be. Some of those values are respecting each other; you need to also have self-respect and confidence. My background taught me to help others and be kind; my village was a big family so we always helped each other farm or looked after each other when someone was sick.

What does allyship look like to you in an inclusive workplace?

It looks like a group of individuals who stand up for the equal and fair treatment of different people and offer some of the most effective and powerful voices for those who are underrepresented. It’s the practice of emphasizing inclusion and human rights.