[WIC] has been really helpful for alleviating the stress and anxiety of: am I going to be able to provide proper healthy food for my kids?
– Bo-Yee Poon   

Bo-Yee Poon, 39, tells Diane Chamberlain, 49, about getting WIC benefits after returning from China during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Diane delivered WIC groceries to Bo-Yee and her children, and the two women have become good friends. We hear first from Bo-Yee.

Bo-Yee: I spent the last 16 years of my life in China studying Tai chi until COVID-19 and I had to leave. And I came back home to Vermont.

Diane: And I remember you telling me how rushed you were to pack up and leave with really just what you had in your suitcase and with the thought of maybe coming to the states for a month.

Bo-Yee: Yeah, that was the plan.

Diane: And so how did that change? 

Bo-Yee: Well, our flights got canceled. So we’re still here.

Diane: What made you consider reaching out to WIC for assistance?

Bo-Yee: So it didn’t look like we were going back. And my brother said, “You know, you need to look into getting some insurance. There’s a pandemic—what if you have to go to the hospital?” And so I went on Vermont Health Connect. I’m not making any money right now. So you automatically are eligible for WIC if your kids are under the age of five, which mine are.

Diane: How has WIC supported you during this COVID-19 pandemic?

Bo-Yee: The kids don’t like to eat fruits and vegetables. So they gave me tips—maybe you can chop the veggies smaller or in like a different shape and maybe they’ll eat them. And you know, it’s worked.

Diane: That’s great.

Bo-Yee: And it’s really been helpful for alleviating the stress and anxiety of, am I going to be able to provide proper healthy food for my kids?

Diane: And you are. You had the courage to reach out and ask for help.

Bo-Yee: I’ve always been so independent, and then it’s like, okay, I can’t work. I can’t afford childcare. It’s really scary. So it’s been really nice to have some sort of guarantee like, okay, your kids are gonna at least have this much. And you don’t have to worry about that.

Diane: I remember the very first time when I went grocery shopping, you wrote me a handwritten note. You had the kids draw me art. You would write me emails for every little thing that I dropped off. And I knew that it was all worth any of the extra little time that I might’ve had to do that because it was for someone who really appreciated the giving and the receiving.

Bo-Yee: It just, I don’t know, it’s embarrassing, kind of, and almost feels shameful because I’m a healthy young woman capable of working, just not making enough.

Diane: That is nothing to be ashamed of, Bo-Yee. And if you weren’t in this situation, I wouldn’t have had this wonderful opportunity to meet you. And you know that old saying, let’s turn those lemons into lemonade. And it’s been a sweet lemonade getting to know you. It really, really has.

Bo-Yee: Thank you, Diane.


This segment was produced by StoryCorps, a non-profit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. It was made possible with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in partnership with the National WIC Association.