Indo-American Center in West Ridge aims to close wealth gap in Chicago's Asian community

Jasmine Minor Image
Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Indo-American Center aims to close wealth gap in Asian community
The Indo-American Center in Chicago's West Ridge neighborhood is aiming to change the wealth gap in the city's Asian community.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Indo-American Center in Chicago's West Ridge neighborhood said the Asian community has the largest wealth inequality gap of any ethnic group, which they are aiming to change one class at a time.

The center is working to close that wealth gap by creating a family-oriented environment, from English language classes to dance parties in the lunchroom.

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Mohammed Gandhi said all the knowledge he needed to become financially independent came from right there in that building.

"Reading tests, writing tests; all the knowledge," he said.

"You can come here and we will help you navigate whatever feels challenging or confusing," said Angie Lobo, executive director of the Indo-American Center.

Gandhi is one of nearly 150 people using the center to make a better life for themselves.

The center offers all kinds of social services; dance, yoga, financial literacy programs, book clubs and even legal support for immigrants. With more than 16 different language spoken there, the help is something Lobo said is invaluable.

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"The Indian American community has the highest income inequality of any ethnic group," Lobo said. "That's really how we were founded. A group of South Asian immigrants really wanted to build the place that they wish they had when they first came."

Data from the Pew Research Center shows the wealthiest Asian Americans make over 10 times more than the poorest in the community, and are now the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the country.

"The South Asian community has grown so dramatically. And we actually can't rely on just the community support," said Anita Puri, Indo-American Center board president.

Puri said she came from India with her parents as a toddler. She saw firsthand how her family worked to become financially stable and open every door to her and her sister.

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"Every Friday and Saturday night we would have a potluck dinner, everybody would come together," she recalled. "So it was creating that community."

She said that tradition is echoed through the center's walls.

"A lot of former clients are on staff," she said.

As a result, there is a system where the student often becomes the teacher. But when Gandhi reaches his English-speaking goals, he plans to dance it out.

"After citizenship I will celebrate in in the American Center," he said.

With a party, of course.