Last week VAOHP held a community reception at Van Lang Community Hall to celebrate the formal launch of their official website. Along with the collective efforts of the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation (VAHF) based in Texas, VAOHP has made UC Irvine the new home of hundreds of Vietnamese life stories. Dr. Thuy Vo Dang along with Dr. Linda Trinh Vo served as the event’s masters of ceremonies. Along with a league of volunteers and research interns, the event was up and running in a matter of hours. Upon arrival guests were greeted at the entrance hall along with a nametag, those that participated as narrators had blue ribbons attached. Once inside guests indulged in traditional Vietnamese finger foods and the moving art work of Trinh Thuy Mai. With volunteers replenishing the food table there wasn’t an empty belly nor a clean hand in sight. Speakers from UC Irvine and VAHF spoke of the importance of continuing such and endeavor. As an added bonus the VAHF awarded Dr. Linda Trinh Vo and Dr. Thuy Vo Dang with plaques of accomplishment for all they have done for the Vietnamese community.
From my humble perspective, the milestones that VAOHP has made in a year were simply mind boggling. When I became a part of the project only a few months ago I was told that the goal of this project was to bridge the gap between academia and community. The overwhelming outpour of support made me feel that my efforts and the efforts of those around me were being recognized by the community. The highlight of the night came from an extremely generous grant from the Wells Fargo foundation. Our little “grass roots” project has blossomed into this, might I say, movement. I can already imagine years down the line more narrators, volunteers, and interns will be added on to the growing project and hundreds of stories might become thousands. The idea of leaving a piece of ourselves and our experiences for our children and future generations is something that resonates within our community. All too often during my interviews I heard how parents and grandparents want to tell their stories to their children but have trouble doing so for whatever reason, whether it’s a language barrier or the even the wrong time. The purpose of having this public unveiling was to help the community recognize that we are a possible resource to overcome these obstacles. With people becoming more reliant on technology for information access, the online repository is perfect way to eloquently illustrate the fruits of our labor.
To view the oral histories launched through the UC Irvine Libraries’ Southeast Asian Archive, please visit: vaohp.lib.uci.edu.
~Michelle Le Pham
~photos by Christopher Truong