In this blog series, we hope to explore the history, cultural traditions, and current practices of Vietnamese-American giving in order to demystify for many a demographic that holds great potential for the philanthropic sectors.
On a whole, the Vietnamese-American community is still in its wealth-creation stages, so it is difficult to ascertain whether younger Vietnamese Americans will embrace philanthropy as a pronounced aspect of their lives or give on a more passive basis in order to focus on raising their own net worth. Less occupied by the politics of older generations and more receptive to giving back to and beyond the immediate community, younger generations of Vietnamese Americans have the potential to charter their own path.
Today, there are strong hints towards the rising salience of giving among Vietnamese-American youth. For example, Vietnamese Student Associations (VSAs), found in high school and college campuses across the country, are growing hubs of philanthropic activity. Since 2005, the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA) has incorporated philanthropy into its core mission by initiating the Collective Philanthropy Project (CPP), which allows Vietnamese-American students (and other members of VSA chapters) to fundraise and actively participate in the grantmaking process to serve Vietnamese or Vietnamese-American causes.
This Fall, I chatted with CPP Selection Director for the current year, Lisa Nguyen, to get her thoughts on how philanthropy is shaping the lives of young Vietnamese Americans.
Q: How do you see philanthropy’s role in connecting younger generations to Vietnam?
Philanthropy helps Vietnamese-American youth reconnect to Vietnam by reinforcing culture and traditions. The mission of selected nonprofits must relate to helping the Vietnamese community or purpose in some way. Therefore, philanthropic efforts by UNAVSA raise awareness of Vietnam’s current conditions among the younger Vietnamese community and as a result, help connect our generation back to our motherland without actually being there. Through CPP and UNAVSA, we learn more about our past to improve the future.
Q: Do you think there is a difference between how younger generations and how past generations approach philanthropy?
It is more difficult for younger generations to truly understand the hardships that our parents and past generations endured. However, we have heard many stories which help reinforce how fortunate we are to be in America, the land of opportunity. Therefore, philanthropy is one way for us to show appreciation for what we have.
Q: Beyond funds CPP has raised for different NGOs, what are some of the other effects of CPP you’ve observed?
I have observed numerous friendships develop, leaders being made, culture and traditions upheld, and generosity arise from around the country. Personally, I have also seen changes in myself. By being heavily involved with CPP and UNAVSA, I have seen personal development where I take pleasure in volunteering my time and efforts for a great and selfless cause. There is no doubt that many other UNAVSA members have also had their eyes opened by being involved with CPP. They have learned to put others before themselves and be empathetic towards the less fortunate.
Q: Five, ten, fifteen years from now, what role do you see philanthropy having in Vietnamese American culture?
Philanthropy will maintain a strong presence in the Vietnamese-American culture. There are many Vietnamese Americans who are successful in fields such as business, medicine, engineering, etc. As evidenced by the amount of donations the CPP has received these past 8 years, many of these Vietnamese professionals have no problem giving back. As role models, these charitable professionals create a future cycle of philanthropy by illustrating to younger generations the importance of selflessness. In addition, working together for one Vietnamese-related charitable cause encourages our generation to appreciate what we have and strengthens the bond with our culture.
Note: This interview originally appeared on the blog of Vietnam Health, Education & Literature Projects.
About the Author
Anh is the communications and development coordinator at Vietnam Health, Education & Literature Projects (VNHELP), a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of Vietnam’s poor. Prior to her current position, Anh worked with Give2Asia in the business development department to research and develop material for Vietnamese American and corporate philanthropy. She also served as managing for Vietnam Talking Points (part of OneVietnam Network), where she wrote about Asian American identity and culture.
Also in this series:
The Rise of Vietnamese American Philanthropy
How and Where Vietnamese Americans Give in the US
How and Where Vietnamese Americans Give Back to Vietnam
Opportunities and Challenges to Vietnamese-American Philanthropy