Organization: St. Anne–St. Joseph Hien Church – Vietnamese Language Program
Volunteer Service: Since 2015
What is the mission of the Vietnamese Language and Culture Program?
The program focuses on preserving and sustaining Vietnamese language and culture by offering classes to local youth on the weekends. Our goal is to pass on our traditions for generations to come.
How did you first get involved?
I was enrolled in the program growing up. After graduating, I wanted to stay connected to my language and culture so I got involved as a volunteer teacher.
In what ways do you volunteer with them?
I currently teach the kindergarten class. At first I was little nervous because I had never taught before, but I learned that children are very forgiving. They allowed me to make mistakes and adapt my teaching methods over time. As part of my curriculum, we play a lot of games and work on basics of the Vietnamese language to get them started in the program.
What do you feel is the most rewarding part of volunteering?
To me, the most rewarding part is spending time with the kids. They really look up to you as a role model and the class as safe space to talk about life experiences. Coming from immigrant parents, I can also relate to the students who don’t feel like they can talk to them about certain subjects due to differences in views and generational norms. It’s rewarding to provide that for these students because it’s something I didn’t have growing up.
Can you share a memorable experience you’ve been a part of through your community involvement?
Every year, there are a few students who express the impact I’ve made on them just by giving them a safe space to be themselves. It makes me feel like I’m doing something important. I get to watch them grow up through the program, and many of them stop by every now and then to catch up.
How do you feel volunteering has changed you as a person?
I think I’ve learned to be more patient, especially teaching four- to six-year-olds. It’s also put my life into perspective, learning about some of the kids’ environments. Some of them are going through difficult situations and are still so positive and happy. We all could learn a little bit from them.
What have you learned about your community?
I’ve learned that culture is important. Before teaching, I knew the basics from being in the program, but when I started to teach I had to research the traditions to really understand why we have certain holidays and practices. It’s been interesting to learn and fulfilling to teach those traditions to future generations.
Why is it important to give back to the communities we serve?
Overall, it’s important to do what you can to make the community a little bit better. The community experience had an impact on me growing up and I wanted to give back to help others as well.
What advice would you give other colleagues looking to start volunteering?
I think the hardest part is starting. Just know that you’re always welcome as a volunteer. Nonprofits are very happy when new people come in, so don’t hesitate. You can start by messaging someone you know in the volunteer community just to learn more. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to introduce you to the experience.