With the surge of violent attacks against Asian Americans, Maddy Park knew that many people were starting to fear public transportation — so within a matter of days, she helped raise $100,000 to keep them off of it.
Park, who lives in New York City, said a recent ride on the subway left her riddled with anxiety and fear, and inspired her to launch the Cafe Maddy Cab initiative, which pays for private Uber and Lyft rides for female, elderly and LGBTQ Asian people.
"It was a 30-minute commute and I realized every minute of the 30 minutes, I was terrified," Park told WABC. "I was scared that any moment in time someone might say a racial slur, or attack me, or worst of all, I thought that if something were to happen to me, nobody would stand up."
Though she was able to afford ridesharing and taxi rides when she felt unsafe, she knew that many couldn't, so she put $2,000 of her own toward reimbursing people for their travels.
Soon, she said, word had spread, and within just two days, she'd raised more than $100,000, which she paid out to riders on Venmo.
"People who are donating are people from all across the nation, across all races, ethnicities, and they just sent me messages saying, 'Listen, we really want you guys to be safe too, and we're donating so that more people can take rides in the cities,'" she told WABC.
Park, who goes by CafeMaddy on social media, started the Instagram page @CafeMaddyCab for the endeavor on April 2, and explained that all users have to do is provide a selfie proving they are who they say they are and a screenshot of the ride receipt proving it's in New York City.
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Then, they can Venmo request her for the cost of the ride, and she will reimburse them for up to $40. Though Park stopped taking donations once she reached $100,000, she said on Tuesday she will now take them once again through PayPal.
"We will use funds to support additional rides in NYC and also help fund & jump start similar initiatives in cities across the nation," she wrote on Instagram. "So far we have one coming up for LA, SF started one on @calikyecab and expecting more people to organize in their own city."
Park's Instagram page has shared testimonies from people who used the service, including one person who took their grandmother to a doctor's appointment.
"Thank you so much for doing this. I'm a current student who's volunteering at a crisis call center and I've been very afraid of going to my shift and coming home alone," another person said.
There has been an uptick in incidents involving violent attacks against Asian Americans, according to Stop AAPI Hate. The organization said that its reporting center received 3,795 incidents from March 2020 to February 2021.
"I really hope this program is temporary," Park told WNYW. "This is simply started as a practical effort to keep people safe."
If you've been attacked or have witnessed an attack, please contact your local authorities. You can also report your incident here. To learn more and to report crimes, go to: Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Stop the AAPI Hate, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.