Our latest blog post focuses on Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month. We highlight an incredible local agency we’ve partnered with since 1997 that provides low-cost martial arts instruction to hundreds of kids in the Bay Area.

 Celebrating AAPI Month 1

It’s Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month! This exciting month focuses on celebrating the lives, history, and cultures of Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States. The AAPI community includes about 50 ethnic groups with connections to Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Hawaiian, and other Asian and Pacific Islander ancestries. 

To celebrate Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, we want to highlight a local agency that we have worked with over the years for the holidays. Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo is a San José-based nonprofit agency that provides low-cost martial arts instruction to hundreds of kids in the Bay Area. Led by CamBinh Nguyen, this agency teaches kids the principles and practices of the Vietnamese martial art of Vovinam at a minimal cost to students and their families. At 70 years old, CamBinh leads martial arts, lion dance, and traditional Vietnamese dance classes for students from ages 5 to 75. While most Vovinam practitioners use it for self-defense, it also teaches its students how to be better people and neighbors through its philosophy of self-discipline, modesty, and a sense of community. It carries deep Vietnamese history and values and is inclusive of everyone, regardless of age or health condition.

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Before the pandemic, classes were hosted at local schools. These days, CamBinh’s classes have shrunken in size and are hosted in her backyard in San Jose. Over the four decades that Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo has been in operation, they have managed to provide opportunities for many students to steer away from local gang activity through focused practice in Vovinam and one-on-one life coaching. Despite all the good that CamBinh has managed to put out in the Bay Area community, however, she faces an uncertain future. The organization provides access to this program by charging 10% of what traditional martial arts clubs charge, which means that they do not have the means to hire instructors to take over.

CamBinh continues to provide this service despite her current challenges because of her love for Vovinam and her community. She continues to keep Vietnamese traditions alive through her work, and Family Giving Tree is proud to work alongside CamBinh to make this happen. 

We are grateful to be able to support the advocacy work of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo as well as other agencies, like the Edwin and Anita Lee Newcomer School. The Edwin and Anita Lee Newcomer School assists newly-arrived Chinese-speaking immigrant students. Their one-year program is designed to teach foundational English skills in reading, writing, and oral English language development. It also supports those experiencing socio-emotional challenges when making such a significant transition from immigrating to China to the United States.

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Reflecting on May’s theme of mental health awareness and Asian & Pacific American Heritage Month, we at Family Giving Tree want to give our support to the AAPI community, which includes 26% of Bay Area residents. The AAPI community is the second-largest demographic Family Giving Tree supports (the first being the Hispanic/LatinX community). Part of each person’s mental health healing journey is validation. When we seek to hold space for stories of the AAPI community — their experiences, values, and triumphs, as well as the struggles, the stresses, and traumas that have weighed on people of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage — we can act as better allies*, ultimately creating a safe, uplifting space for our community.

(What is an ally*? An ally is someone who is willing to take action in support of another person, in order to remove external barriers that impede that person from contributing their skills and talents in the workplace or community.)