BY JOYCE YIU
For years, the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have been facing numerous social challenges, such as an increase in the number of street children, a rise in homelessness and a skyrocketing epidemic of HIV infection. The lack of resources for human services has prevented local government bodies from assisting people in a timely manner. In an effort to alleviate these sufferings, Sinh Nguyen, along with other local Seattle Vietnamese Americans, founded Paracels Foundation in 2003.
Nguyen, president of Paracels Foundation, never expected to start his own nonprofit organization.
“Years ago, I was given an opportunity to start a human service program in response to the growing needs for human and health services in Vietnam,” Nguyen said. “Since I can’t drop everything here and go to Vietnam, I came up with the idea of starting a public foundation to work in partnership with local people to help themselves.”
The Paracels Foundation is the first grant-making foundation created by Southeast Asian Americans that provides funds to other nonprofit organizations in the Mekong Basin countries — Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, according to Nguyen. In order to apply for the grant, organizations turn in a letter of inquiry and a detailed proposal to Paracels Foundation board of trustees. Nguyen said the trustees carefully review all proposals and select the best organizations for the grant awards.
On top of raising money for the organizations, Nguyen said, the foundation also provides training opportunities so that they can become more effective in their work.
“We wish to improve their technical capacities in order to turn them into democratic organizations with strong community accountabilities,” said Nguyen.
The goal of Paracels Foundation is to provide a learning opportunity for nonprofit organizations in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to build effective and efficient organizations.
“Many organizations in those countries don’t even have a board of trustees. Without the board, it’s often difficult to build good community support. We need to show them how to build a strong organization and educate them on writing good proposals for grant applications,” he said.
The president also points out that these organizations usually have insufficient funds to run their social programs.
“The conditions in those countries often make you cry, but our foundation makes decisions to allocate our limited funds strategically to have the greatest impact in the community,” said Nguyen.
Site visits to seven organizations in Vietnam were conducted recently to evaluate the impact of their social programs. Nguyen said that these visits are very critical because nonprofit organizations receive grants based on the board of trustees’ observations and evaluations of the programs.
At the foundation’s first annual fundraiser reception on Nov. 17, the board of trustees will release their evaluation reports of the seven organizations to its members and supporters. Nguyen said the main purpose of the event is to celebrate the foundation’s achievements since 2003 and to raise funds for its grant-making program.
The mission of the foundation is to build collaborations with nonprofit organizations in the areas of health, human services, literacy and environmental education in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and other Southeast Asian countries. With the continuous efforts of the foundation’s trustees, volunteers and supporters, the mission will be fulfilled in the near future.
“I’m glad that we have founded a magnet organization that has meaningful gatherings to do something positive for the community. It is certainly the best gift that I could afford to the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos,” said Nguyen, with a grin.
The Paracels Foundation dinner will be held Thursday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. Graham Visitors Center, WA Park Arboretum. 2300 Arboretum Dr. E. Contact: Sinh Q. Nguyen, President (206) 818-5983. E-mail: [email protected] www.paracels.org.