Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vietnamese American Student Association Wins Regional Award

The UNO Vietnamese American Student Association recently won a regional award for its working raising awareness of human sex trafficking in Southeast Asia.The UNO Vietnamese American Student Association recently won a regional award for their work raising funds for One Body Village, a nonprofit devoted to raising awareness of human sex trafficking and protecting at-risk children in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The University of New Orleans Vietnamese American Student Association raised its profile this summer with a regional award. The 50-member student organization traveled to a national conference of similar groups – and learned that their fundraising efforts to raise awareness of human sex trafficking in Southeast Asia secured top place in the Gulf Coast region.

"Collectively, every year, we pick an that we raise money for a collective goal," said UNO undergraduate student Daniel Ha of annual fundraising efforts spearheaded by the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations.

The Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA) annually hosts a national leadership conference that invites students and young professionals from across North America to gather for an event that will serve as a catalyst to motivate and inspire leaders within the Vietnamese-American community, said organizers. The 11th Annual UNAVSA Leadership Conference took place last month in Dallas, Texas and UNO students representing the Vietnamese-American community on campus played an active role.

At last year's UNAVSA conference, Vietnamese-American Student Associations from across North America voted on one collective philanthropy project. They agreed to direct fundraising efforts for the 2013-2014 academic year to support One Body Village, an organization that aims to combat human sex trafficking in developing countries, especially in Vietnam and Cambodia. The organization also works to provide at-risk children and survivors with shelter, medical and behavioral health care, educational assistance and vocational training to improve their future.

The Gulf Coast region won third place for "most money raised" over the course of the year, said Ha, president of UNO-VASA. Within the Gulf Coast region, UNO-VASA raised more money than any other student organization — and won a regional award for their work. Overall, UNAVSA organizations collectively raised more than $85,000. Organizations from the Gulf Coast region raised $13,653.05 and UNO-VASA raised $4,341.52. The Gulf Coast region includes three student organizations from Mississippi, one from Alabama and six from Louisiana, including VASA groups from UNO, LSU, ULL, Loyola, Tulane and Xavier universities.

"We raised money through some of our events, such as Paper Lantern Night, which is held annually, Asian Culture Night, the Canoe Trip, and other small events, such as bake sales and Date Night," said Ha, a rising junior and business major who is president of UNO-VASA.

Fundraising Is Fun

Paper Lantern Night, an annual event, is UNO VASA's cultural event showcasing Vietnamese customs, traditions, food, music and forms of entertainment, such as the traditional fan dance and lion dance, Ha said. This year the event is tentatively scheduled for mid-September.

Asian Culture Night, co-hosted with the Japanese Nikkon Club, showcases the cultures of Asian countries from Japan and India to Thailand and Vietnam.

Date Night is an event sponsored by UNAVSA groups from the Gulf Coast region. Organization members give performances demonstrating their talents and fellow members may bid for a "date" with performers, Ha said. At Date Night, VASA members also put on collective performances.

"First and foremost, for UNO VASA, we want to promote awareness of the Vietnamese culture," said Ha. "We also want to make sure that new members, especially incoming freshmen have an easy time transitioning to college life through social events and many small events that let members feel comfortable so that they may have fun."

UNO-VASA hosts a number of events throughout the year, said Ha, citing the organization's annual Progressive Dinner held every December as an favorite.

"We drive from house to house and eat dinner, potluck-style, from donated food," he said. "We also play team-based games to promote competition."

Creating chaos and camaraderie are games that involve, for example, a member placing a dinner bowl on his head while another pitches goldfish crackers to the target, or a game in which one member ties a clipboard to his waist and navigates his hips, using the clipboard as a defensive shield while fellow members toss ping-pong balls aiming to hit a target.

"It gets messy," said Ha. "When you have many teams trying to throw ping-pong balls, there are many ping-pong balls flying through the air."

The organization has been heavily recruiting at New Student Orientation this summer and will be on the job at Fresh Fest, a fall event for incoming freshmen showcasing student organizations. This year, VASA organizations at universities across the country and in Canada will be raising funds for 


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Office of Student Involvement and Leadership
Vietnamese American Student Association