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Nho Vietnam An Update for Alumni and Friends of the VIA Vietnam Program Volume III, Issue II Fall 2007 VIA Launches New Summer Program in Vietnam In the pilot year of the Vietnamese-American Service Learning (VASL) program, four young Vietnamese Americans taught workshops, learned about anti-trafficking programs, and discovered their unique connections to a country their families left decades ago. This past summer, four young Vietnamese-Americans and one VIA Summer Program Coordinator participated in VIA’s newest program in Vietnam: a 6-week English teaching and exchange program in collobara- tion with the Pacific Links Foundation and An Giang University. The program was created by VIA to introduce young Vietnamese- Americans to Vietnam, build understanding of community needs, and to inspire future involvement in Vietnam. It was also intended to accommodate the growing number of Vietnamese-Americans applying to VIA’s other summer program in Vietnam, the popular Teach-in-Hue program. Carol Duong, Tram Nguyen, Cam-tu Vu, and Oanh Ho were VIA’s first volunteers in the Vietnamese-American Service Learning (VASL) Program. Ranging in ages from 20-23, the volunteers are English, Law, Elementary Education, and Neurobiology majors at schools all over the country. During the program, the small group shadowed local staff of Pacific Links Foundation (, a Vietnamese-Ameri- can NGO based in the Bay Area, and learned about its anti-trafficking programs through home visits and informal discussions. In addition, the volunteers taught two English workshops: a Social Issues in the US workshop to university students at An Giang University and a Beginning English workshop to middle school students and award recipients of the Pacific Links Foundation scholarship program. The multiple program components kept the group busy throughout the summer but allowed each to observe and participate in a diverse set of experiences and to learn about different aspects of Vietnam, includ- ing gender disparity, poverty, higher education, university student life, and community development programs. Through the program, Tram Nguyen, who had just completed her first year at Lewis and Clark Law School, discovered an interest in working in Vietnam or with the Vietnamese-American community. “Coming back to Vietnam, I realized that I am so intertwined with the culture and com- munity here. I really want to tailor my future career to working with Vietnamese overseas or come back and do international relations work.” This fall, VIA begins recruitment for next year’s Vietnamese American Service Learning Program. For more information, visit VIA’s website. Read more about this program Top: The volunteers pose in their ao dais after a ceremony at An Giang University. Middle: Volunteers teach scholarship and see photos inside! recipients. Bottom: Cam-tu Vu (right) congratulates a scholarship recipient after an awards ceremony. Vietnamese-American Service Learning Program 2007 Photos and quotes on this page are from VIA’s newest summer program for Vietnamese- Americans, as featured on the previous page. Clockwise from top: (1) An Giang University students; (2) Volunteers, An Giang University students, and Pacific Links Foundation staff after a scholarship ceremony; (3) Volunteers hand out school books during a scholarship ceremony; (4) Oanh and an An Giang University student on a weekend picnic. “Because of this program I have grown to love Vietnam. This is a perfect program for Viet-Kieus who are trying to understand their roots. I really appreciate the group support when I was going through difficulties adapting to the culture in Vietnam. I don’t think my experience in Vietnam would be the same if I traveled alone. Thanks!” (Cam-tu Vu, sophomore at Nothern Illinois University and VASL 2007 participant) “This program has allowed me to realize a lot of things about life, for example, I have now developed a better understanding of poverty. I have grown as a person in which I am more open- minded about life. I definitely feel that I am less judgmental and more empathetic towards people. I know my help was little to the Vietnamese commu- nity in Vietnam, but I feel that with all the help of past, current, and future volunteers from VIA, we can help make a difference in Vietnam and make Vietnam a better country.” (Oanh Ho, senior at UC Davis and VASL 2007 participant) A VASL Volunteer Reflects: Can We Make A Difference? Below, VASL volunteer Tram Nguyen shares her thoughts on a day visit- ing students who have dropped out of school. This piece was written as part of a reflection assignment that volunteers submitted throughout the program. Carol and I went with Chi Loan and Chi Van, Pacific Links staff, to visit girls who have dropped out of the scholarship programs. Our mission for that day was to investigate the reasons why these girls have dropped out and whether or not any of these reasons may be addressed by Pacific Links. It was a very intense experience. I’ve seen poverty in the States, different stages of poverty, and different types of “After this summer, these four young women will have a poverty. Yet, it was different this time. deeper appreciation for their country of heritage. There This time, I could see myself in these are many young Vietnamese-Americans who want to girls which made me empathize with return to Vietnam and have a similar experience,” said them. We left at 7 am and didn’t return to Long Xuyen til 7 pm. The entire day Christine Tran, director of the Vietnam Program at was spent tracking down six girls. We Volunteers in Asia (as quoted in Tuoi Tre Online, Vietnam’s were only able to meet three of the national youth publication). girls, while the other three either were working or at a relative’s house for the summer. will eat the next day, how will they find tually are forced to work rather then The three girls we did meet all had money to feed their family the next day. go to school. These situations are really compelling situations. All were They are consumed by these thoughts; tough, but Pacific Links will look for ways extremely poor and all had little value they do not have the chance to plan for to help the family through financial aid. for education. As Chi Loan and Chi Van their future because their present has At the end of the day, I’ve grown a counseled these girls, encouraging them already dictated their life. stronger respect for Pacific Links and it’s to return to school, my eyes searched After realizing this somewhat mission. The staff are incredibly per- the face of family members, the house, daunting, hopeless situation I began to sistent and have unsurpassed patience. the things in the house, all of which gave wonder whether Pacific Links was I also have a stronger conviction to the an insight into what these girls were effective as they pour all of these re- idea of affirmative action and other facing. sources into hopeless situations. But Chi programs that help people who were At first I did not understand why these Duyen reminded us that these hopeless not born with a silver spoon in their very young, naive girls were given the situations continue to be hopeless with- mouth. There is an enormous differ- freedom to decide whether or not they out programs like Pacific LInks. For a lot ence between those who have the luxury wanted to go to school. I know that if of the girls, their family cannot afford to envision a brighter future and those I tried to drop out of school when I was for them to go to school, for those situa- who can only envision the next meal. young, my parents would not allow it. tions Pacific Links can help, they can pay I’ve always know that as a Vietnamese But then I realized that we live in for school tuition, books, uniforms, and American, I was very lucky to be given different worlds. These girls are so health insurance. But many situations a chance for a brighter future. But to poor, they do not have the luxury to look are much more severe, where the family realize that I was a product of intracta- ahead, look towards their future. They is so poor not only is it that they cannot ble poverty, I am floored by my parents are confined by their situation to only afford school tuition but they cannot af- relentless efforts to not only look to the look towards the next day; what they ford the next meal and these girls even- next meal, but look to the future. 2007-08 New Vol Facebook Meet the 11 new volunteers who joined the VIA Vietnam family this fall! Benson Chu (M/28) received a B.S. Can Tho University in Management Information Systems undergraduates and and a M.S. in International Studies from professionals. Oklahoma University. Benson has years of website development and programming Olivia Nguyen (F/24) experience. Benson is teaching English graduated from UC to Hanoi University undergraduates and Berkeley in 2006 with IT department faculty. a B.A. in English and Molecular Cell Biology. Walker Giersch (M/34) graduated from She tutored at a local high Hamilton College in 1999 with a degree in school, taught computer History. Walker has years of experience classes, and coached in sporting goods retail management and martial arts. Olivia has is an active outdoor enthusiast. Walker is never been to Vietnam teaching English to government officials but studied Vietnamese through Vietnam Plus. for and Vietnamese literature. Olivia is Tiffany Goodson (F/33) graduated teaching Literature and On the last day of long-term training in Chiang Mai, volunteers from Macalester College in St. Paul International Studies pose for a final photo before catching a plane to Hanoi. Minnesota in 1997 with a B.A. in Sociology courses at Hue University. and Communications. Tiffany was AnThu Vuong (F/26) graduated from adopted from Vietnam as an orphan in Jessica Schaffner (F/22) graduated UCLA in 2005 with an M.A. in Comparative April 1975 by a family in the US. She has from Ohio Wesleyan University in May of Literature, a B.S. in Biology, and a B.A. many years of experience as an executive 2007 with a B.A. in International Studies in Comparative Literature. She served as assistant. Tiffany is teaching English to and Psychology. She organized a student the Director of the Higher Opportunity Hanoi University undergraduates. organization to raise campus awareness of Program for Education (HOPE) at UCLA Agent Orange. Jessica is teaching Hanoi and has previously visited Vietnam to Candice Kortcamp (F/27) graduated Agricultural University undergraduates conduct academic research. AnThu is from UCLA in 2004 with a B.A. in American and providing English resource assistance teaching in the English, International Literature and Cultures and a minor in to the its agricultural research center. Studies and Community Development Asian American Studies. At UCLA, she departments at Dalat University. wrote articles for various publications Linda Tran (F/23) received a B.A. in and served as Editor-in-Chief of an Asian- Asian American Studies and an M.A. in Virginia Visconti (F/43) received an American news magazine. Candice is Sociology from Stanford University in M.A.T. in English and a Ph.D. in Socio- teaching Literature and International 2007. She worked in youth leadership Cultural Anthropology and Education Studies courses at Hue University. development, academic counseling, and Policy Studies from Indiana University, mentorship. She has written papers on at Bloomington. She previously Michelle Labuwi (F/23) graduated topics such as Hurricane Katrina and the conducted ethnographic field work in from the University of Washington New Orleans Vietnamese community and Vietnam through the Fulbright program with a B.A. in Communication. She has Vietnamese refugee policy in Japan. Linda and as part of her dissertation research. never visited Vietnam, but has traveled is providing English resource assistance to Virginia is teaching English and providing extensively through Europe and Central the An Giang Dong Thap Alliance for the English resource assistance to the Hanoi America. Michelle is teaching An Giang Prevention of Trafficking. School of Public Health. University undergraduates and fellows. William Lampe, (M/23) graduated from the University of Washington with Community Fellowships! a B.S. in Environmental Conservation This year, VIA is proud to present our first ever Community Fellows: Biology. He taught English classes in a Tiffany Goodson, Jessica Schaffner, Linda Tran, and AnThu Vuong. The rural elementary school in Costa Rica Community Fellowship program offers students and community activists a and studied sustainable living practices. Will is teaching An Giang University unique opportunity to integrate their passion for Vietnam or the Vietnam- undergraduates and fellows. ese-American community with purposeful, hands-on volunteer experiences in Vietnam. Fellows volunteer at one of VIA’s 11 partner institutions in Julie Nguyen (F/22) graduated from Vietnam and receive $1000 to design and implement a service project ben- UCLA in 2007 with a B.A. in Sociology. At efitting an underserved community in Vietnam and/or promote understand- UCLA, she tutored and peer counseled ing between the U.S. and Vietnam. VIA’s Community Fellowship program is high school and college students. generously funded by the Ford Foundation. Check out the next issue of Nho Previously, she studied abroad in Vietnam Vietnam to read about our fellows’ service projects! for one semester. Julie is teaching Lending a Helping Hand in Hue Last semester, Huyen Tran government’s desire to preserve the im- age of Hue for tourism purposes. (‘06) volunteered her free Phu Hiep’s Resettlement Area for Boat Large photo: Phu Hiep Resettlement Village is People is now home to about 50 fami- time as a coordinator for lies and a growing population of over made of a small street lined each side by 25 or so homes. Above: Huyen Tran’s 3rd-year the Bead Project in the 300 residents. Many of the residents in students help her rebuild roofs in the village. this community, who once depended on Phu Hiep Resettlement the river for their livelihoods, now sell read up on the latest world news. At Village for Boat People in lottery tickets, collect and resell plastic 7:30 am, I’d head out and bike across and usable scrap or beg. Not much has the bridge to teach a 3-hour bead class Hue. Huyen, along with improved despite being relocated to at the resettlement village. Afterwards, several of her university land. I’d race home for a quick shower before Earlier this year, Huyen Tran began biking out again to teach at the univer- students, taught youth in volunteering her free time in the Phu sity. After class, I’d meet with a director the village how to make Hiep Resettlement Area. Huyen became a coordinator for the Bead Project, a to discuss the Bead Project, design new products, or package the products to bead handicrafts. program sponsored by a U.K. NGO work- ship to Singapore and the UK (Yes, we ing in Hue. The goal of the program was had international markets!). By the time Just before the great flood in Hue to help generate sustainable income I grabbed a quick dinner and headed of ‘99, the van do village under Gia for the community. Huyen, and several home, it was already 8-9 pm!” Hoi Bridge was relocated by the local third-year university students that she Huyen completed her one-year con- government to Phu Hiep Quarter. Van invited to help, learned how to make tract with VIA in June 2007 and has since do means “boats on the water” and bead handicrafts and taught this skill to returned home to Philadelphia. Despite the local government has resettled the young people in the community. being thousands of miles away from Hue, majority of these communities formerly Huyen recounts her involvement Huyen continues to assist with the Bead living on the Perfume River to land. Hue with the Bead Project and some of the Project, selling handicrafts in her com- is home to over 2000 boat families living busiest days of her year in Hue: “March, munity and researching additional buyers in van do communities on the Perfume April, and May are perhaps the hottest for the handicrafts. River. Some of the major reasons for months of the year in Hue. Everyday, I For more information about the resettlement include the lack of clean would wake up at 5:30 am, prepare for Bead Project, please contact Huyen at water, river pollution, and the local my university classes, check email and An Giang University Students Were Asked: How Has Learning with Foreign Teachers Changed the Way You View Your Own Culture and Others? Left: Volunteer Lillian Forsyth (‘06) facilitates classroom discussion. Right: Students walk to class at An GIang University in Long Xuyen. coming to class I saw a foreign teacher. ber Mr. Eric first appeared in our class, Lillian Forsyth (‘06) orga- At that time I was too shy to speak any introducing himself in Vietnamese! That nized a speech contest at word, he realized that and he got closer impressed me greatly. At the age of 20, to say “hello” to me while I just bowed I am still bad at going shopping. Mean- An Giang University. Here to him and ran into my class as quickly while, Ms. Lillian already knows how to are excerpts from two as possible. I felt ashamed of what I said bargain at market, Mr. Eric can manage nothing, even a very simple word “hel- by his own using Vietnamese street lan- student speeches. lo.” But now I am more confident when guage. Friends are learning things about speaking with foreign teachers because us. It is bad of me not to study Vietnam- of their friendly and enthusiastic ways. ese culture carefully. Tran Ngoc Hoa, DH5D1 Finally, foreign teachers have helped Nguyen Van Vien, DH5D3 me more tolerant of cultural differ- Being an English major student at ences. Mr. Scott, Mr. Eric, Ms. Lillian, AGU, I have a good chance to study with Through working with foreign teach- etc. are all from other countries. Still, foreign teachers who not only teach me ers, I recognized that I still know very they work with us quite well and joyfully major knowledge but also give me their little about Vietnamese culture. For so far. Even I learn from these teachers own culture which I have never heard example, one time Mr. Scott asked us to things typical for an industrial lifestyle before. Through that process I can have describe a Vietnamese traditional treat- such as punctuality, flexibility at work. a look at both American culture and ment for any common disease, it took Especially, I enjoy their informal classes, Vietnamese culture. I can clearly see me much time to finish the job because though Vietnamese teachers’ classes are that learning language with someone was not sure of any treatment! Almost also fine. That intensifies my belief that from a different culture takes me to a every cultural comparison between besides keeping our identity, we need new world where I can learn many posi- Vietnam and other countries which our to adopt new things from the outside tive figures: good working style, flexibil- teachers raise can be beyond my ability world. ity, and open-mindedness. Foreign teachers’ flexibility is the to discuss. Sadly, these classes made one that I think is very essential for me realized the lack of my background them. Actually, I am sure that my foreign teachers might encounter some problems knowledge of my own culture. Thanks to learning with native teach- Join VIA on at the first time they came to Vietnam such as food, weather, transportation… ers, my awareness of culture has a little bit developed. Actually, I say a little Facebook. But so flexible that are they familiar bit because the word “culture” itself with new environment after a very short frightens me every time I think of it. I Search for VIA time… am not interested in this field, which (Volunteers in Asia). The next interesting this is their requires a lot of reading. Then things open-mindedness. When being a fresh- changed when I work with our current man, unlike my classmates, I was very native teachers. You know what, they We’re at 70 plus shy to speak any word in English. That are studying Vietnamese, and they give members and growing! worried me a lot. One day, on the way me lots of nice surprises. I still remem- Puttin’ on the Works at Nha Trang University At Nha Trang University (NTU), couple Tom McCauliff and Janella Pennington (‘06-07) support a two-year old English department. One of their many responsibilities as volunteers at Nha Trang University includes hosting the campus English Club, which features informal student skits, discussions, and other activities to motivate students to practice their English skills outside of the classroom. Tom and Janella work with their Vietnamese colleagues, student representatives, and the head of the English Department to coordinate quarterly English Club meetings. “The students’ excitement at each of these English Club sessions has been so enormous and so very palpable that it makes the many hours of coordination and planning that precede the big event worthwhile.” This month, Tom and Janella returned to Nha Trang University to begin their Right: Janella and fellow English teacher Khanh pose on Women’s Day. Khanh is a former stu- second year as VIA volunteers. Both will dent of VIA volunteers at Dalat University! Bottom left, NTU students prepare for an English continue team-teaching with each other club banner. Top left, Tom and Janella with their students at an English club meeting. and their Vietnamese colleagues. Our Landlady on “Main Street,” Long My moving in the cool of the evening. We They taught little Phuc Nguyen to say “I Kristi Smith (‘06), a vol- joke about everything you can imagine. love you Kristi”, and he adds his own “co unteer at VIA’s most rural There’s a lot of gesturing and poking and le, co le” to it. She has us over to her arm grabbing, and we manage to have a place almost every Sunday at 11 for a post in Vietnam, Vietnam great time without a common language. home cooked lunch, and there’s always Plus in Long My, describes Our little group spans the generations, some fruit for me. Her place is down a with people 5, 13, 30, 40, 50, and 60 quiet little lane with views of a pond, a one of her favorite people years old. reminder that this town is quite small and in this small town. Last month she pointed at the full we’re only a few blocks away from the moon and asked if we had this in my country. country. She’s full of questions. Some of Even though we rent from her, it’s still We live in a house on “Main Street.” them are the same every day. “When do her house. She walks right in, opens the Our landlady comes over every evening you go to sleep?” “When do you get up?” refrigerator, looks through our things and and sets up a little street stall out The answers to these never fail to amuse asks about them. No room is exempt. front. She serves fertilized duck eggs her. She can’t fathom sleeping past 5 or It’s just curiosity, she’d never steal a and homemade rice wine, plus a variety 6am. Most of her questions stem from thing. Sau enjoys taking care of us, and of dried fish. Her name is Sau (6), she’s curiosity about our personal habits. The runs interference when the motorcycle sixty years old, and doesn’t speak a word way I dress is always a topic of discussion. taxi driver who’s confessed true love of English except “ok,” “no,” and “I don’t I don’t wear my clothes tight enough. for me shows up. She spent a full day know.” She has an infectious smile and Loose clothes are not “dep” (beautiful), preparing curry for Jeff’s birthday party, laugh, is bossy and caring, and one of the loose hair is not “dep”, how much do I but wouldn’t leave the kitchen. most delightful people I’ve ever met. weigh, I’m very fat. At least they think I After work we often sit in front of our Every day she asks if I’ve eaten rice look younger than I am, so that makes me house with her and relax while neighbors yet, then invites me to go walking with “dep” for my age. Jeff looks older than and staff from VN Plus stop by and eat her after she closes up shop. We’re he is, because only old men have beards. eggs, and there’s a little snack party right frequently joined by her daughter and He is “dep”, his beard is not (making a outside our door. We have a great time five year old grandson, a friend with a cutting motion with her hands). talking with people and making friends 13 year old daughter, and sometimes She wants to know about so many because of Sau and her neighborhood Jeff (my post-mate). It’s not much as far things, and I don’t know how to answer shop. It’s hard to remember that when we as exercise goes (unless I let little Phuc all of her questions. They tease me first arrived, she wouldn’t even consider Nguyen chase me), but we’re out and because I say “co le” (maybe) so often. renting to foreigners. All About... Alumni “To Dalat with Love” Alumni Races in Vietnam’s First A new guidebook called To Asia With Love International Triathlon, Hoi An will be published next spring and include three On Saturday, August 11, submissions by alumni Lorene Strand (‘01-02). In Vietnam hosted its first ever these submissions, Lorene suggests readers visit international triathlon in the Cu Chi tunnels, a church in Ho Chi Minh City and historic city of Hoi An. For- the University of Dalat, where she served as a VIA mer Teach-in-Hue volunteer volunteer. Below is an excerpt from her submission (‘98) and Vietnam Program on the University of Dalat: Director Ann Le (‘01-03) completed a 1.5 km swim, “Hello, hello!” the students shyly call to me as 40 km bike ride, and 10 km I walk up Phu Dong Thien Vuong Street towards the run in 3 hours and 22 min- University of Dalat. There is a group of them, and utes. Ann trained 5 days a they have just finished their lunch at a local com week over 4 months and was sinh vien and are heading back to school. Eager to featured on VTV before and practice their English, they join me, their musical voices inquiring about where I’m from, my family, after the race. my job, my life. . . They are eager to share and “It was so much fun! I wish you were all there. Anyone for the Hoi An show me around their university. triathlon, summer 2008?” asks Ann. Together, we stroll through the 40 hectare Congratulations Ann! For more information about the Hoi An Interna- university campus amongst the pine trees, tional Triathlon please visit: rhododendron, cherry, mimosa, and hydrangea flowers. There is the sport stadium, outdoor VIA Vietnam Family Albums amphitheatre, student café, bookstore, library, labs, greenhouse, and assorted buildings that dot Congratulations to this beautiful hillside campus. The University of new parents Ky Lam Dalat is the most beautiful university campus in (‘01-02) and Shelby all of Vietnam. Hunt (‘01-02)! The first time I came here was in August 2001. Kaden Lam Hunt I had always wanted to come to Vietnam. You see, was born on Friday my step-father is a Vietnam veteran; he was in Cu March 2, 2007 at Chi in 1968, and is 100% disabled from the war. In 3:42am weighing 6 2001, a new century was underway: Vietnam was a pounds, 13 ounces. country, and I was going there in peace. Through Volunteers in Asia, a non-profit organization located at Stanford University, I Proud husband and arrived at the University of Dalat and settled into father of two shares a small apartment in a row of housing that lined a a family photo with hill above the university soccer field. From here, I VIA. Pictured here joined a small group of non-native faculty members are Andrew Demo who taught various English and French classes for (‘00-01), his wife the Department of Foreign Languages... Hoa, and children Amanda, age 15 For more information about this guidebook, months, and Joshua, please visit: age 3 and a half. Focus Group: Nho Vietnam Contributors: Orientation Welcome Thank you’s: Van Tran, Darin Neeley, Jennifer Davoli, Patty Tram Le, Lillian Forsyth, Tom McCauliff, Huyen Tran, Lunch for New Vols: Kristy Kelley & Sarah Bales We couldn’t Esposito, Adrian Khactu, Kristi Smith, Shelby Hunt, do it without Elicia Berger, Thien Hua, Ky Lam, Ann Le, Drew everybody who Kate Dunham, Mai Tran, Demo, Lorene Strand, & completed our online you! Virginia Player, Stefan Schear, Greg Tung, Kim Bui, Janella Pennington. alumni survey! Results are coming in the next issue! & Laura Dang