California- Los Angeles

Kim Tho Nguyen

Where did you serve?
Vietnamese Language and Culture (VNLC) operates two projects that serves different sites in Reseda and Canoga Park. Both areas are part of the Los Angeles county, and are areas where most of the population is struggling financially. We provide services which help the community by providing an extra resource, such as language classes and tutoring, to encourage students to apply to college.
 

Were there any moments of culture shock that really stood out?
There exists a very big gap in language barrier between the younger generation and their parents/grandparents in the US. Abroad in the Vietnamese community, there exists close to zero language barrier as the young generation can efficiently communicate with the older generation in Vietnamese. The difference can be contributed to the two cultures that Vietnamese Americans are enclosed in in the United States: the American culture and the Vietnamese culture.
 
What organization did you serve with? Does it have a UCLA connection?
I serve with Vietnamese Language and Culture, a USAC Community Service Commission project.
 
Why did you choose this organization and location?
We work with community partners including the Office of the San Fernando Vietnamese Community and Canoga Park High School. We also collaborate with outside Vietnamese organizations, whose members were past VNLC members/staff. All of our projects and involvement contribute to the overall mission of VNLC.

 

What lessons have you learned from your volunteer experience?
Preserving the Vietnamese language and culture matters because I can see it being lost in as little as one or two generations. In the language courses we offer with the Office of the San Fernando Vietnamese Community, the students are at varying levels of proficiency in Vietnamese. It’s sad to see those students who don’t know the Vietnamese language when their parents and grandparents speak mostly Vietnamese. The communication barrier alienates them, somewhat, from people in their own families, simply because they can’t understand each other. Providing tutoring and mentoring services to the community in Canoga Park helps families in a different way. Tutoring helps those students who struggle in class and need a little extra one on one attention to achieve higher grades. We also mentor them by acting as role models and encouraging them to apply for college and letting them know about financial aid. I learned that it’s important to help those who are struggling because you will be helping to keep them, and the community, safe and help them prosper. These students live in an area with gang presence and by helping the students we encourage them to get away from gangs and gang violence. This helps the community as well by reducing gang membership and turning these students into better leaders for the community.

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The More You Know

Area Served Reseda and Canoga Park, Los Angeles
Reseda Residents of Vietnamese Decent 1760 (2.4%)
Service Organization Vietnamese Language and Culture
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