AAPIP Voices

Meet 3 More New AAPIP Chapter Co-Chairs


AAPIP’s ten Chapters play an important role in advancing our mission to expand and mobilize resources for AAPI communities to build a more just and equitable society. Chapter Co-Chairs are volunteer leaders who play a critical role as our ears on the ground, helping us develop local programming addressing AAPI issues, and building partnerships with regional members, philanthropic institutions and community-based organizations.

This year, we’re excited to welcome 11 new chapter leaders – and we’d like you to meet them! Over the course of the next few months, we will be featuring a short interview with each of them here on our blog. In our last post of this series, we met Jennifer Choi (Chicago), Aarati Kasturirangan (Philadelphia), and Jon Schill (Minnesota). Keep checking back to meet more of our co-chairs.

Maya Iwata (New York Chapter)
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

Maya Iwata is Director of Operations & Development at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). Previously Maya worked at other social justice organizations such as Race Forward and in the intersecting areas of health and mental health, race, gender, and equity. In addition to AAPIP, some of her philanthropic activities include being a founding member of the Asian American Impact Fund and serving on the advisory committee for Bee’s Fund, a donor advised fund.

1. How and why did you get involved with AAPIP? What goals do you hope to accomplish as an AAPIP Co-Chair?

I became involved with AAPIP a number of years ago when I was helping start a new giving circle in NYC and became more interested in philanthropy. As an API who had worked in mostly in non-API communities of color, I stayed because I enjoy being part of the AAPIP community and reading AAPIP’s research on our diverse communities. As a new AAPIP Co-Chair, I hope to help support a community of philanthropic API’s interested in moving forward social change.

2. What do you think are the most important issues affecting the AAPI community in your area?

There are many important issues affecting the very diverse AAPI community in New York City, where 1 in 8 New Yorkers is an API; however, a cross-cutting issue is the various issues stemming from the “model minority” stereotype created during the Civil Rights era as a way to splinter collective power building among people of color. As someone who was born in Virginia and whose father grew up in the Jim Crow era, this is particularly important to me.

3. If you had a super power, what would it be and why?

If I had one superpower, it would be the ability to make people feel empathy for someone else on command. If people could experience the thoughts, feelings and pain of others as their own, it would really help understanding and potentially accelerate movement towards racial, social, and economic equity.

Jon Wu (Seattle Chapter)
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Jon Wu is an IT Business Analyst at the largest private foundation in the world. He has a passion for enabling technology to help people in the community and globally. He joined AAPIP as the Seattle Chapter Co-Chair in 2016.

1. How and why did you get involved with AAPIP? What goals do you hope to accomplish as an AAPIP Co-Chair?

I’ve been serving as a Steering Committee Leader for the Gates Asian in Philanthropy (GAP) group for the past three years at my organization. Ani Sundaram, my GAP colleague and former Seattle Co-Chair, introduced me to AAPIP’s work. As I learned more about its mission and purpose from her and the information I gathered, I felt instantly connected and eager to support it. My official first day, as an incoming Co-Chair, was at the AAPIP convening in New York.

The learnings and the network built with other participants from the convening reinforce my personal goal to lay out a collaborative ground to develop AAPI leaders and leverage them to gain corporate/non-corporate support as one of our capabilities.

2. What do you think are the most important issues affecting the AAPI community in your area?

Seattle has a lot of AAPI history and having lived here for 30+ years in the center of the largest Asian community in South Seattle, its most important issue remains the same over the last three decades. That is, non-English speaking and under-represented AAPI immigrants, young and old, struggling to keep up with income/career growth, housing, healthcare, and education.

3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

If I could travel anywhere in the world, it would be the Skeena River. It is the second largest river system in British Columbia, surrounded by untouched nature and wild fish species running through it. A fishing angler’s paradise.

Hanh Le (Metro DC Chapter)
Weissberg Foundation

Hanh Le is the executive director of the Weissberg Foundation. Prior to joining the foundation, she was the chief program officer at Exponent Philanthropy, where she led educational programming, content development, and internal learning efforts. Inspired by the power of collaborative impact and the DC-area community, she co-founded the Cherry Blossom Giving Circle and co-chairs the Metro-DC chapter of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. A graduate of the College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia, Hanh is passionate about family, friends, dogs, biking, food, matrixes, and bad TV.

1. How and why did you get involved with AAPIP? What goals do you hope to accomplish as an AAPIP Co-Chair?

When I first started working in philanthropy in 2008, I attended a Council on Foundations conference where I happened to meet both an AAPIP staffer and an AAPIP member. Their passion for AAPIP’s work and community encouraged me to learn more about the organization, and I too became excited about AAPIP’s mission and the inspired community it was engaging to achieve it.

I’d like the DC Metro Chapter to develop explicit goals and strategies around local learning and connecting, as well as for how we can better advance AAPIP National’s priorities.

2. What do you think are the most important issues affecting the AAPI community in your area?

I worry that the AAPI community is not engaged enough in the larger conversations and work around race that are happening in our community, and communities across the country. Race matters, and our voice matters in advancing equity for all communities of color. How do we equip and mobilize ourselves to engage more meaningfully?

3. If you had a super power, what would it be and why?

I wish I had the power to answer emails simply by looking at them and sending responses telepathically. That’d save me a lot of time, like on having to start every email with, “So sorry for the slow response…”

We also want to thank our former Chapter Co-Chairs for their leadership: Isabelle Leighton (Asian Americans for Equality, New York), Anjana Sundaram (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle), and Emily Yu (Case Foundation, Metro DC).