Vietnamese American Community of Georgia (VAC-GA)
On a typical day, Trish Nguyen is busy multi-tasking at the Vietnamese American Community of Georgia's office in Norcross. Nguyen is either busy filling out application forms for food stamps, answering questions on medicare, or teaching computer classes to the newly arrived Vietnamese immigrants.
Trish has a soft spot in her heart for immigrants as she was once a new immigrant herself. She was born in Tien Giang, a small village located about six-hours drive south of Saigon, Vietnam. Along with her mother and three brothers, Trish landed in the United States in 1989. They have lived as refugees for five months at a United Nation's processing center at Bataan, Philippines.
“We landed in Chicago and we were given a small one-bedroom apartment on the nineteen floor in a housing project to start our life in America,” Trish recalls vividly.
“It wasn't much but we were happy. We were given donated food and clothing by community volunteers,” added Trish. Her affinity towards helping others today started by the generosity and examples shown by the volunteers.
She and her brothers quickly adapt to Chicago public schools and the American way of life. Trish's mom picked up sewing projects to earn extra cash to support the family.
Upon graduation from high school, Trish was enrolled at Loyola University. She later transferred to Kennesaw State University and completed a Bachelor of Business Administration in Information Technology in 2004.
“My first job after graduation was in real estate and brokerage services,” said Trish. In 2006, she earned her professional real estate license to allow her to conduct transaction for her clients.
While pursuing her work in real estate, Trish finds time to volunteer as a radio program host at BPSOS Atlanta, a non-profit agency assisting Vietnamese refugees and newly arrived immigrants.
“I enjoyed sharing my real estate knowledge with the community,” she adds. “My radio program also shared information on seeking financial help especially for those individuals facing foreclosures and financial issues.”
Trish also finds time to volunteer at Vietnamese-American Community of Georgia, a non-profit agency for the Vietnamese community.
“My path started with VAC Georgia when I volunteered for the 2008 Tet New Year celebration event.”
With the slowing economy and real estate market, Trish finds opportunity with a job offer at a consulting firm in 2011. Her new role was to provide administration help and IT supporting services.
Her dedication and strong work ethic at VAC Georgia caught the attention of senior directors of the organization. Trish was invited to serve as a member of the Board and also appointed Secretary from 2008-2012.
“There are major challenges in the Vietnamese-American community organizations. Funding and personnel are among the key issues facing these organizations including VAC Georgia,” said Trish.
She was elected as President VAC Georgia in February 2012 for a term lasting until 2016. VAC Georgia provides a wide range of services including senior programs, food stamps/welfare programs, Vietnamese language classes, citizenship & ESL classes, computer classes for the elders, and traditional dance instructions.
The organization officially relocated to a new office space located off Jimmy Carter Boulevard in June 2012.
Trish has set three major agendas for her tenure at the organization.
“I hope to transform VAC Georgia to be more open and to have direct relationship with other communities,” said Trish with confident.
“Secondly, my goal is to increase staffing support at key programs that we offer such as health fairs, senior programs, and computer classes. At the moment, we are a bit short-handed,” she adds.
“Increasing Vietnamese youth involvement with VAC Georgia is a major goal of mine. I am planning an all year round initiative to keep the youth engaged and to learn.”
Trish has recently quit her job with the consulting firm to dedicate more time at VAC Georgia. Her unselfish dedication at the organization is beginning to pay off with larger participation at events and growing interests from the youths.
She and a group of dedicated volunteers are currently busy planning for a major health fair and the Moon Cake Festival in September. “We have two major health fair every year. The Spring fair is designed for annual check ups and the Fall fair is to administer free flu shots.”
It has come full circle for Trish as she looks back on the journey that her family endured in settling in America.
“I hope to make a difference in the life of the new immigrants as I have been through it. My hope is to inspire the youth in the community to appreciate the sacrifice of their elders and parents,” said Trish with a smile.