Vietnamese center to mark 10 years on Charles Street

By 
Sharon Ng, Special to the Reporter
Sep. 20, 2012

After two months of preparing for the 10th anniversary celebration of the Vietnamese American Community Center on Sept. 29, Nam Pham has many people to thank.

The executive director of the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (Viet-AID), the non-profit organization which operates the center, explained: “We will celebrate the contributions of everyone who makes Fields Corner a better place.”

With 400 people expected to attend the My Gala fundraiser taking place at Boston College High School, the Viet-AID-hosted event is a showcase of how far the Vietnamese community in Fields Corner has come.

“Dorchester was a dangerous place,” said Pham. “Charles Street [where the Center is located] used to be infested with drug dens. The Center used to be an old abandoned garage. There weren’t many family-oriented activities, but the neighborhood improved.”  

Founded in 1994 by “all the people” in the Dorchester neighborhood, Viet-AID is a “one of a kind” organization that boosts cultural, business and entertainment interests.

“Fields Corner is now a relatively safe, vibrant neighborhood,” said the Quincy resident. “My new tagline is: Fields Corner is not just a stop, it’s a destination.”

He continued: “It’s our home. The reason we built a Center was to build a home for a multigenerational, multicultural community. Dorchester has the highest concentration of Vietnamese in New England. There are 15 to 20,000 Vietnamese within a one-mile radius of the T. That’s about 30 percent of the population in Dorchester.”

Pham also hopes to make it more diverse with the activities the Center offers.

“Whether you’re 18 months or 80 years old, we have something for you,” said the 56-year-old. “You don’t have to be Vietnamese. We have activities for small business people, older people and younger people. We have preschool, after school and summer camps. We have martial arts, ballroom dancing, boy scouts, Vietnamese literacy and multicultural celebrations of holidays.”

Pham believes these activities help youth make better choices. He recruits volunteers from high schools, college organizations, churches and the Buddhist temple. He also utilizes social networking.

“We have a spotlight on honorees and youngsters,” said the executive director of the event. “We have many young people attending My Gala and we want to help them make a better program.”

Along with youngsters, Viet-AID also focuses on helping families.

“The Center was built 10 years ago,” said Pham. “It’s taken five to 10 years for improvement to take place in the community. But there is less crime, it’s safer, housing is better, people are gardening a lot more, there are a lot more business, there are more jobs for people. We injected $50 million in investment in Field Corners. We plan to build more housing.”

In addition to these programs, more emphasis is being placed on civic engagement. Tenants are organized in the buildings, residents are kept safe, and people are mobilized to vote.

“We recruit and train 50 young community volunteers,” said Pham. “It’s good for the community and good for them.”

My Gala, Viet-AID’s celebration of the achievements of the Vietnamese American Community Center, will take place on Sept. 29 from 6-11 p.m. at Boston College High School on Morrissey Boulevard. There will be Vietnamese cuisine, music, dancing, a silent auction and complimentary drinks from 6-6:30 p.m. The event calls for cultural and business attire. Tickets are $100 for general admission, $75 for students or seniors, and $50 for veterans. RSVP by emailing gala@vietaid.org or calling 617-822-3717 ext. 15. The deadline to RSVP is Sept. 28.

All proceeds will go to youth and family programs, according to Pham. Preschool, afterschool, summer camp and parenting classes will all be strengthened.