Help is on the way for the Vietnamese community - - The News for South Mississippi

Help is on the way for the Vietnamese community

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By Doug Walker – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Asian Americans for Change took a major step forward Tuesday, opening a permanent field office in Ocean Springs.

The organization formed shortly after Hurricane Katrina to help in the coast's recovery efforts. They're still helping today.

"Information regarding health, work development, and some of the information regarding housing, rebuilding, and recovery," said Kaitlin Truong, the group's founder.

The vast majority of Vietnamese who lived in east Biloxi made their living from the sea. But what the triple whammy of Katrina, the national recession, and the oil spill, devastated their community. Many never come back. That's the reason, Truong said, the AAC exists.

"It really took a big toll on their livelihood. Some of them barely made it to providing food on the table," Truong said.  "A lot of them are struggling through the claims process." 

Ed Cake is an consultant for the organization.  The BP oil spill in the Gulf is his primary concern.

"At many board meetings and many public meetings, I have been the one who has updated them on what the issues are with the oil spill and what it means to them." 

Also meaningful is the chance to make a living doing something besides fishing.  That's where Wayne Kuntz and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College enter the picture.  It's a chance to start a new life with new skills, according to Kuntz.  

"We have a heating and air conditioning program that we've put together using a Vietnamese speaking instructor and that allows people who may not have great English skills to be able to take the training and get jobs in that particular field," Kuntz said. 

With Tuesday's opening, the AAC hopes to reach its goal of making an entire people whole and prosperous once again.

Asian Americans for Change is funded in part with grant money social service agencies, private donations and corporate sponsors.  The AAC provides help in all three coastal counties.

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