Vietnamese Boat People

Vietnamese Boat People

Between 1975 and 1992, nearly two million Vietnamese risked their lives to flee oppression and hardship after the Vietnam War, in one of the largest mass exoduses in modern history. Escaping by boat, many found freedom in foreign lands, many were captured and brutally punished, and many did not survive

Vietnamese Boat People

Between 1975 and 1992, nearly two million Vietnamese risked their lives to flee oppression and hardship after the Vietnam War, in one of the largest mass exoduses in modern history. Escaping by boat, many found freedom in foreign lands, many were captured and brutally punished, and many did not survive the journey. This population of people are known as the ‘Vietnamese Boat People' and our mission is to preserve their stories in their own voices, raising awareness and instilling pride in Vietnamese American stories. Through our work, we empower historically marginalized people to tell their own stories, with the intention to educate and elevate the Vietnamese-American experience as part of the overall AAPI narrative. It is our hope that this work will encourage intergenerational dialogue and healing, unite communities through shared cultures and experiences, and empower younger generations to learn more about their families’ stories and histories. What started as a podcast to spotlight first-hand accounts of the Vietnamese Boat People’s refugee experience has expanded into a community-based nonprofit that delivers transformative humanities programs, including a digital collective, workshops, and community events. Our programs actively unites, engages and mobilizes Vietnamese-Americans to build community and collective power to support each other as well as today’s refugee and immigrant communities. We are a volunteer-led team of talented contributors, from students to experienced professionals, all descendents of refugees and immigrants.

About the Organization:

Between 1975 and 1992, nearly two million Vietnamese risked their lives to flee oppression and hardship after the Vietnam War, in one of the largest mass exoduses in modern history. Escaping by boat, many found freedom in foreign lands, many were captured and brutally punished, and many did not survive the journey. This population of people are known as the ‘Vietnamese Boat People' and our mission is to preserve their stories in their own voices, raising awareness and instilling pride in Vietnamese American stories. Through our work, we empower historically marginalized people to tell their own stories, with the intention to educate and elevate the Vietnamese-American experience as part of the overall AAPI narrative. It is our hope that this work will encourage intergenerational dialogue and healing, unite communities through shared cultures and experiences, and empower younger generations to learn more about their families’ stories and histories. What started as a podcast to spotlight first-hand accounts of the Vietnamese Boat People’s refugee experience has expanded into a community-based nonprofit that delivers transformative humanities programs, including a digital collective, workshops, and community events. Our programs actively unites, engages and mobilizes Vietnamese-Americans to build community and collective power to support each other as well as today’s refugee and immigrant communities. We are a volunteer-led team of talented contributors, from students to experienced professionals, all descendents of refugees and immigrants.

organizational budget

$50,000 - $100,000

existence for

0-5 Years

The Issue:

For far too long, the Vietnamese-American experience has been soley characterized and interpreted through the lens of the Western perspective, focused predominantly on the Vietnam War. This approach projects the biases and assumptions of outsiders onto our histories and narratives, resulting in the dilution of our stories and reducing them to mere accounts of the adversities we faced. It neglects to acknowledge the essence of our identities and the individuals we have become. After treacherous journeys and spending months (sometimes years) at refugee camps living in poor conditions, many Vietnamese refugees struggled with cultural assimilation and post-traumatic stress. The process of assimilation was not an easy one, complicated even further with the stigma attached with being a refugee. First generations of Vietnamese-Americans were focused on survival and assimilation with a ‘heads down, stay quiet, and work hard to earn our place in America’ approach while descendants struggle with navigating their own identities as Americans and finding a sense of belonging.  Recognizing that the Vietnamese experience is not monolithic, we strive to create a safe space where individuals feel empowered to openly share, empathize, and reconcile with their own life journeys, in the context of the broader collective experience. By amplifying these stories, our intention is to educate, dismantle misconceptions and stereotypes, foster connections, build a sense of community, and inspire others to engage in meaningful conversations with their families, friends, and communities.  Most importantly, we are creating dialogue and representation for younger generations, ones that did not exist for our parents or our younger selves. We aspire to contribute to the enrichment of educators and researchers in the fields of Asian-American, refugee, and immigrant studies. The first-hand accounts we collect and share serve as valuable resources, providing unique insights that can deepen scholarly understanding and promote more nuanced analyses of these subjects. By sharing and highlighting the stories, we seek to be a source of differing viewpoints, allowing the broader audiences to see situations and ideas from another’s perspective.

The Solution:

We firmly believe in the transformative and healing power of storytelling and its ability to empower its speaker and listeners. With our primary objective to help families in documenting their stories for future generations, we provide a supportive community, structured process, and accessible platform for them to do so. From our podcast, Journeys Map, annual Story Slam, and community events - each of our programs directly and intentionally connects, empowers, and unites people of the Vietnamese diasporic community.  The Vietnamese Boat People podcast is in its 6th season with episodes featuring a range of topics, including family values, differing beliefs, cultural assimilation, bullying and allyship, intergenerational trauma and healing, and triumphs.  Our Journeys Map is a centralized, comprehensive, and interactive resource for the public curated directly from people of the Vietnamese diaspora. While serving to preserve the stories of the Vietnamese diasporic community, the Journeys Map uplifts and amplifies the historically marginalized voices of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants and educates worldwide audiences on our history, culture, diverse experiences and contributions to American society. Furthermore, through its digital infrastructure, the Journeys Map connects us with large Vietnamese communities that resettled in other parts of the world allowing us to scale and collect Vietnamese diaspora stories beyond the United States.  Our signature annual event, the Mỹ (American) Việt (Vietnamese) Story Slam , is a collaborative gathering and celebration of young artists and storytellers, Vietnamese-owned businesses, notable Asian-American leaders, and hundreds of AAPI community members. Following this event, many participants and partners collaborate with our organization to contribute resources and time, lead workshops, and help community members share their stories on the Journeys Map.  In addition to our existing schedule of community and virtual events, we are investing in user-enablement offerings by expanding our partnerships with other community organizers at university campuses, at community gatherings, and at public libraries. We look forward to presenting more in-person opportunities as they will allow us to personally guide Journeys Map contributors through the storytelling process, providing them with the necessary tools for conducting family interviews and crafting narratives.

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