For 26 years, Helping Link volunteers have helped thousands of Vietnamese refugees, immigrants

The Seattle metro area is home to one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the country. Helping Link provides Vietnamese immigrants English lessons, computer skills and assistance in becoming U.S. citizens. (Photo courtesy of Helping Link.)

For 26 years, Helping Link has been a beacon for Vietnamese immigrants and refugees, offering essential bilingual and bicultural support. Today, Helping Link continues to offer English language classes, citizenship classes, computer literacy classes, and information and referrals that connect clients to jobs, schools, medical care, and immigration services.

With only one full time staff, volunteers are the backbone of Helping Link. Together, for the past twenty-six years, Helping Link volunteers have helped thousands of refugees, immigrants and members of the Vietnamese community foster ties to the greater Seattle community.

“Helping Link offered me an opportunity to gain experience as a volunteer to assist in launching my career as an educator,” said volunteer John Phillips. “I quickly realized that volunteering at Helping Link had a far greater impact on me personally than the professional growth it provided.

Helping Link’s mission is to empower Vietnamese-Americans’ social adjustment, family stability, and self-sufficiency while nurturing community service and youth leaders.

“Strength in Numbers” — the ability of each individual to collectively create positive social change — is the theme of Helping Link’s 26th Anniversary Benefit Gala, which happens on on Saturday, October 26.

“Each individual can make a difference and bridge the opportunity gap,” said Helping Link Executive Director Minh-Duc Nguyen, who runs the organization as the only staff member.

Volunteers have played an essential role in making an impact for generations of Vietnamese immigrants and refugees.

“It’s always rewarding to help the organization to continue to meet its mission and grow,” said volunteer Christina Davidson. “Helping Link has stretched me to learn new things and develop my leadership skills. Lessons learned? One person can truly make a difference in another person’s life.”

Volunteer Rebecca Kleinberg said: “I think Helping Link represents a haven for the Vietnamese community. It’s in Little Saigon so it’s convenient to get to and it’s near many Vietnamese businesses. It’s a place where the Vietnamese community can gather, share a meal, get help with any kind of issue they’re facing, and be supported by one another and by the volunteer staff and Minh Duc.”

In 1993, Nguyen co-founded Helping Link after taking a trip back home to Vietnam. Through the extreme poverty she witnessed, she saw the strength, dignity and initiative of the locals to survive. Inspired, she came back to Seattle determined to help new Vietnamese immigrants in Seattle.

Today, immigrants and refugees face increased scrutiny and barriers due to growing anti-immigrant sentiment, xenophobia, and policies from the highest levels of government aimed at keeping them out of the country.

“Our focus now, is not just providing the skills necessary to succeed and survive, but to thrive in the current U.S. political climate,” Nguyen said. “In a political environment that is increasingly hostile to immigrants. Helping Link is a proud, stark, contrast. We are welcoming, we are warm, and together we build a network to support one another — there is strength in numbers.”

To celebrate 26 years of serving community, Helping Link/Một Dấu Nố will be holding their gala on 26th October 2019 at Mercer Island Community Center. Sen. Joe Nguyen, Washington’s first Vietnamese state Senator, will be the keynote speaker at the gala. For tickets and more information, visit https://www.helpinglink.org/2019-gala/.

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