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Esther Kim

2015, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Esther Kim

Esther Kim

Name of Host Organization: Lone Star Legal Aid
City, State: Houston, Texas
Issue area: Family Law
Sponsors: Texas Access to Justice Foundation

The Project

Esther will provide the Asian community in Harris and Fort Bend Counties in Texas with legal services in guardianship and domestic violence cases through direct representation, outreach, and collaboration with local organizations.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
Asians make up more than seven percent of the Houston population. Houston also has the third largest Vietnamese population among the major US metropolitan areas. Yet, members of the Asian community are vastly underrepresented as clients of legal aid groups in Houston. Many Asian women are victims of domestic violence, but refuse to seek help, believing silent suffering is in the best interests of their children. They tend to distrust organizations run by non-Asian members, fearing they will be linguistically and culturally misunderstood or subjected to racial discrimination. Currently, the majority of Asian applicants who seek help are those with guardianship or probate cases. The very few domestic violence victims who do come for help are referrals from non-profit organizations serving specific Asian or South-Asian communities. The small numbers demonstrate the importance of a holistic approach including community outreach initiatives to educate the community about available social and legal services and to calm their fears and misconceptions about seeking legal help.
The Right Person For This Project
Esther is the right person for the project because:
• As an Asian-American, she is better able to relate to the targeted community
• She can speak fluent Korean and conversational Mandarin Chinese
• She has experience working with victims of domestic violence at churches and in legal aid clinics at Lone Star Legal Aid and University of Houston Law Center Legal Aid Clinic
• She has a strong, personal commitment to serve immigrant and second-generation families and help them find the appropriate social and legal service.
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship
In the first six months, Esther will:
• Develop a more solid understanding of substantive family law, especially regarding guardianships, domestic violence, and child custody
• Build a relationship with Asian community organizations
• Provide direct representation to victims of domestic violence and those in need guardianships
• Meet with other advocates in the community and outreach providers at Lone Star Legal Aid to find ways to increase visibility in the Asian community