Team Member Spotlight: Tina Chan Sweenie

Posted on August 12, 2021

Each month, we’re highlighting a “behind-the-scenes” team member whose work supports our mission, but whose face you might not often see on our social media pages.

We’re excited to help you get to know our innovative team and the complex work we do.

So, tune in for our #TeamMemberSpotlight, where our team members share in their own words a bit about themselves!

Woman smilingWhat is your job title? 

Manager of Volunteer and Donor Engagement 

What’s an average day like for you? 

Lots of writing, planning, and speaking to our families. Much of what I do is focused on moving our Penn-Mar community closer together and closer towards change, no matter the focus; Advocacy with the Penn-Mar Advocacy Collective (PMAC), working with our corporate partners and volunteers, or developing relationships with our families and our surrounding community. The best parts of my day are when I get to connect with our self-advocates, the people we support, and their families. I am often speaking to our families, hearing about what they or their family members are experiencing, and motivating them to take the next step to join us in our efforts. 

One of my focus areas is our grassroots advocacy initiative. The Penn-Mar Advocacy Collective was created to get everyone from self-advocates and their families to Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and everyone in between, to join us in increasing awareness and creating a larger voice to address the importance of our DSPs and historical underfunding of DSP wages that lead to high employee turnover rates. 

What’s one thing you wish people realized about your job? 

When it comes to advocacy, it’s all hands on-deck. Direct Support Professionals were in a workforce crisis prior to the pandemic, the issues have only surmounted. Without a strong DSP workforce, we cannot fully provide proper services to those we support. The purpose of the Penn-Mar Advocacy Collective is to create a larger, united voice; to combine our message with those of our advocacy partners to create change and be heard. Power in Numbers! When our elected officials vote on decisions about the lives of those we support and that of their families, they need to know your stories and what your every day looks like. We need everyone, throughout the organization and our surrounding community, to get involved because you are the experts! If we don’t have a large number of people involved, we don’t have a voice to create movement towards a living wage, proper supports, and a healthy work environment.   

In another life, your career path is . . . 

A spy or a race car driver. 

Why is Penn-Mar’s mission important to you? 

We all want to live life to our fullest, no matter the definition. We get the privilege to watch and assist others in their personal discoveries and life goals. 

What’s one thing you wished the general public knew about people with IDD? 

Like all people, with the proper support and guidance, people with IDD can do anything you can!   

What’s your favorite food? 

Char kway teow, reminds me of family, travel, and Malaysia, where my family is from. It’s a popular Chinese immigrant-inspired rice noodle dish from Maritime Southeast Asia. It started out as a poor man’s dish sold as extra income by fishermen. In Hokkien, Char means “stir-fried” and kway teow refers to rice cake strips or flat noodles. Malaysian food is a brilliant mix of flavors with influences from China, India, and the Middle East. If we are being technical, you can include the Indonesian, and European infusions, as well. Nothing beats hawker (street) food from Penang Island! 

Any hidden talents or fun facts someone wouldn’t know about you? 

My first loves are traveling, climbing, and kayaking. The combination of all three is my happy place! 

If you could travel anywhere in the world, you’d visit . . . 

Jordan or Bhutan, I can’t decide between the two. Jordan has been on the bucket list, but Bhutan has piqued my interest during this pandemic. 

In your spare time, you’ll be found . . . 

Spending time with my family! 

A book you love: 

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart 

Anything else you’d like to share? 

When people see outside themselves to hear each other and respect one another, that’s power.