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Our History

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VNHELP was formally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1991, but its origins really trace back to two years before that, in 1989. That year, the US lifted travel restrictions to Vietnam after more than a decade of sanctions. This decision signified the first time since the end of the Vietnam War that Vietnamese Americans could freely return to the birthland they left following the end of the Vietnam War.

Many of VNHELP’s founders were among that first cohort of Vietnamese Americans to return, and when they did, they personally witnessed the poverty and desolation still prevalent throughout much of the country. They decided they had to do something to help ease the suffering. At first, it was just a couple of small, charitable projects they each ran on their own time: help a few kids get through school, raise funds for an orphanage here, send medicine to a community there. But then, in 1991, the friends who would become VNHELP’s founders got together and realized they could do so much more if they combined their resources. In that moment, VNHELP was born.

Over twenty years have gone by since VNHELP’s inception, and it is now one of the largest Vietnamese American-founded nonprofit organizations providing humanitarian and development assistance to Vietnam. Its programs have expanded to reach thousands of people each year through health, education, and economic development. Moving toward the future, VNHELP will continue to explore new ways to promote sustainable change that not only mitigate suffering, but also uplift people from poverty and restore integrity to their lives.

Whether it’s through grassroots initiatives, strategic partnerships, market-based solutions, or social business, our goal is to give everyone a chance to succeed in life. We won’t stop until it becomes reality.

 

Milestones

1991

VNHELP is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our first projects include supporting childcare centers in Hanoi, Saigon and Can Tho, and a hospital in Song Be. The Nguyen Truong To Scholarship Program is launched this year.

1994

VNHELP organizes its first public fundraising event at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts with Dang Thai Son, an international gold medalist pianist. The concert is sold out, representing a major stepping stone in VNHELP’s outreach to the community.

1999

After a particularly devastating typhoon season wrecks much of Vietnam, VNHELP launches the Vietnam Relief Fund and raises over $60,000 through an online campaign for short and long term recovery efforts.  The School Construction program is launched.

2000

VNHELP moves office from Oakland to San Jose.

2002

VNHELP is featured on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News.

2003

VNHELP begins a partnership with the Wheelchair Foundation to organize the Wheel and Grace project, distributing 1500 wheelchairs to Vietnam in the country’s single largest distribution in history. VNHELP’s volunteer Executive Director Thu Do is featured on ABC channel 7’s “Profile of Excellence.”

2005

VNHELP initiates the School Construction Matching Fund.

2006

The Sponsor a Child program formally begins and Thu Do leaves her job in the engineering sector to become VNHELP’s full-time director.

2009

The Microfinance program is launched in Vinh Phuc and Can Tho provinces. VNHELP also takes on its first clean water projects with the East Meets West Foundation.

2011

VNHELP celebrates its 20th anniversary and 20 years of dedication to alleviating poverty in Vietnam.