Conversation with Vietnamese Elders: 12/6/16

On Tuesday, December 6th, Rise and Dutchtown South Community Corporation staff went to a meeting with 70+ Vietnamese elders to share information about our planning work and to hear about their priorities and vision with the help of an interpreter and copies of a survey translated into Vietnamese. Sister Pham and the team at St. Francis Community Services Southside Center deserve special shout-outs for their hospitality and commitment to our neighborhoods. This group of elders gathers bimonthly to spend time together, share stories, and gain access to medical and other services. Founded in 1983, St. Francis Community Services addresses the immediate needs and systemic issues for all, while specializing in Vietnamese & Latino communities in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. SFCS seeks to raise respect for heritage and engagement within & among cultures in a strength-based process of equipping clients with the skills necessary to be resilient.

From our conversation with the elders and their survey responses, we learned about the strength of the Vietnamese community in St. Louis and the networks of support that are used to empower one another. For example, 3/4 of elders said they know and can rely on their neighbors. More than 75% stated they have a good relationship with their landlord, and nearly 85% want to be a part of improving their neighborhoods. This sense of community is fostered by gatherings like the one we attended, as well as organizations like the Vietnamese Community Association.

According to survey responses, the greatest concern is safety; specifically, theft, drug use and juvenile delinquency were cited as the most pressing issues. This concern has made elders feel uncomfortable walking around the neighborhood. In addition to safety, other concerns included: programs for seniors, health and medical services, home repair support, and continuing education. When asked about the strengths of the community, elders highlighted places of worship, public transportation, recreational facilities and libraries.

We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to meet and discuss our efforts with our Vietnamese neighbors, and look forward to a continued conversation.