Categorized | Community News, Education

Open House kickstarts phase 2 of Vietnamese Community Empowerment Project

On December 2, 2011, more than 100 youth, community members and City of Seattle Officials gathered to discuss findings from the Community Action Research and Empowerment (CARE) Project, which explores issues, challenges, and opportunities within the Vietnamese community of Seattle.

The CARE Project was launched in 2009 by the Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) as a way to empower and strengthen the Vietnamese community. The project is led by a team of Vietnamese students who receive training in community assessment and participatory research methods.

“It has been great to learn about the community through academics, leadership, and research,” says Chi Hoang, a student at the University of Washington who joined the CARE Project. “This project will help build a solid foundation for what can be achieved in the future, and involving young people is a great step toward paving the way for future change.”

Despite the myth of being a “model minority,” the Vietnamese community faces many barriers to social, personal, and economic well-being. For example, Vietnamese students are trailing behind other Asian groups in math, science, reading, and writing. An independent report led by Dr. Robert Teranishi, Associate Professor of Higher Education at New York University, found that nearly half of all Vietnamese adults have not enrolled in or completed any postsecondary education.

“The Vietnamese community has made many cultural and economic contributions to the City of Seattle,” says James Hong, Director of Youth and Community Engagement at VFA. “However, our community is still relatively new to America. We’ve only been here about 30-40 years and are still trying to create a foundation for success and self-sufficiency. This process requires active engagement and collaboration among community members, non-profit organizations, and the City of Seattle.”

Councilmember Sally Clark and Director of the Department of Neighborhoods Bernie Matsuno came to the open house to learn how the City of Seattle can work with immigrant communities to strengthen the economic and cultural vibrancy of Seattle. They spoke with members of the community and the CARE Project team about some of the ongoing challenges that Vietnamese-Americans experience — including education, housing, health and safety, and economic stability.

Deputy Mayor of Community Darryl Smith also acknowledges the importance of the CARE Project and thanks the community for its participation. “We need to understand what the community’s needs are. And this work will truly help us to bring a better city to the City of Seattle.”

In the next phase of the CARE Project, the youth team will begin working with community members to draft a strategic action plan that can address issues identified from the research. The action plan will be presented to the broader community for review in Spring 2012.

The CARE Project is funded by the Department of Neighborhood Large Project Fund, the United Way of King County New Solutions Fund, and the Neighbor to Neighbor Fund.

VFA was founded in 1978 and has served the Seattle community for over 30 years, meeting the needs of recent immigrants and refugees, while empowering families and honoring the Vietnamese heritage. Among the VFA’s current services are after-school programs, youth leadership, and community empowerment.

More information is available at vfaseattle.org. James Hong can be reached at james.hong@vfaseattle.org.

(INFO FROM: Vietnamese Friendship Association)

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