Help Arrives For Vietnamese Storm Victims

Tuan Nguyen's rental home in Biloxi washed away in Hurricane Katrina.

"We evacuated. When we came home, we found that everything was gone. I have nothing. Everything I have is borrowed."

Nguyen used pieces of tarp and lumber from a debris pile to turn a porch into a home for him, his wife and two young children.

"We found out that no one was living at this house, and the owner allowed us to stay here for now," Tuan's wife Ngan said.

"Sometimes it gets so hot, my children would complain. I tell them to be patient and wait for the next breeze," Tuan said.

Like so many Vietnamese families in Biloxi, the Nguyens don't speak fluent English and didn't know where to turn for help. That's why the American Red Cross asked Vietnamese-Americans from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to come to Biloxi to help break down the language barrier.

Ly Hong La is the organizer for the group "Ket Doan".

"We went to the Red Cross headquarters, and we heard a lot of stories from there. They were saying that we don't understand why. We're here to provide food. We're here to provide clothes. We're here with all these things, but whenever we drove through the Vietnamese community, everybody runs inside then locks the door."

Phuong Dang is a volunteer from Pennsylvania.

"There's many of them. Their English isn't well and we just wanted to make sure they get all the benefits that are offered to them."

For now, the group is based at the Buddhist Temple on Oak Street. Over the next few days, the volunteers will go door-to-door, and community-to-community, to reach as many Vietnamese families as possible.

Families like the Nguyens, who got help from translators applying for sleeping bags and a tent to add to their meager belongings.

"It's great that they are here to help us, because we don't speak English.  So I'm very happy they're here," Ngan Nguyen said.

"As a young Vietnamese American, we don't know until we see it. This is not only what we can help out with this time, but maybe a way of getting us ready, spiritually and also mentally, for a natural disaster that might happen in the future," La said.

The ten volunteers from "Ket Doan" will be in Biloxi through Monday. They also plan to head to Bayou La Batre, Alabama, to help Vietnamese storm victims there.