Cyndi Nguyen serves as the co-founder and executive director of the first Vietnamese nonprofit organization targeting the Vietnamese community in Louisiana (Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training – VIET). Nguyen spearheads the New Orleans efforts at VIET, which works to develop educational and economic training programs and act as a resource center for minority residents in Louisiana. VIET was created in 2001 to help mainstream the minority communities into the American society and the organization also serves as a bridge to help fill gaps for working families. Through her work and involvement in serving communities, she stands out as a humble civic individual with continuous and restless efforts to rebuild her community.
The organization is so deeply rooted in the community that they are involved in some way in nearly everything. When Nguyen started VIET in 2001, one of the first issues they addressed was creating the “Afterschool Academy” to ensure that children from grades Pre-K – 8 had a safe and structured environment after school hours. Currently, the program serves 350 children every day. In 2002, she spearheaded the creation of VIET’s Summer Adventure program, which is one of the longest-running active programs in New Orleans with Nguyen managing to keep the program in place even in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
VIET provides a family resource and assistance program to provide technical assistance, counseling and referral assistance to families in the area, including classes on English as a second language and classes to help guide parents through the local school district education process. VIET maintains a fitness program for seniors in the area, provides free tax preparation for low-income tax payers, citizenship assistance services, translating and interpreting services, assistance with food-stamp programs – the list is nearly endless. More than anything, Nguyen and VIET are champions for the Michoud neighborhood in New Orleans, which is frequently overlooked as an area in need of governmental and non-governmental resources.