Name: Hyepin Im
Hometown: Los Angeles
Profession: Founder, Korean Churches for Community Development
Hyepin Im’s story begins similarly to those of many other immigrants. She moved here from Korea at age seven, and on numerous occasions while growing up felt excluded as both an immigrant and a member of a minority group. That inspired her to find ways to help ensure that immigrants do not have to feel the same degree of exclusion or isolation that she experienced.
Raised in a family with a strong religious foundation, Im naturally turned to her church as she conceptualized how she could help other Korean immigrants feel rooted in the United States. Ten years ago, Im founded Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), a non-profit, faith-based organization that serves as a bridge between Korean-Americans and the community at large by connecting and creating private and public collaborations.
“From the beginning, we knew that it made sense to work with churches, because 75% of the Korean community here is connected to their church. At KCCD, we work through churches to provide access to services for newly arrived and not-so-newly arrived immigrants,” said Im. “Immigrants often see their church as a haven that supports them in so many ways.”
One of KCCD’s programs offers assistance to first-time home buyers. The organization provides education on home buying and connects potential owners with resources and information on financing, escrow, etc. KCCD is also active in the housing arena through its work on the foreclosure crisis affecting so many Californians. The organization provides counseling sessions for homeowners facing difficulties with their mortgages. In addition to educating about mortgage modifications, KCCD even gets involved in acting as an intermediary when needed between the borrower and the lender.
Beyond housing, KCCD is also involved in such issues as leadership and capacity building, economic and community development, family strengthening, and environmental issues.
Im sees nonprofit organizations playing a critical role in helping immigrant communities. “Nonprofits meet a very important need by building bridges between decision-makers and communities,” said Im. She notes that while the Korean-American community represents a sizeable portion of California’s population, there are very few elected officials from their community. Therefore, Im believes that the government should support the leadership role nonprofits play in connecting the communities they represent to policymakers, opinion leaders, and companies that are making decisions affecting these constituencies.