Summer 2017 Newsletter

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Summer is Here!

The sunny days and outdoor activities in Seattle have finally arrived. As we wrapped our spring quarter with successful graduating ESL and Technology classes, Helping Link has been abuzz with activity for this upcoming quarter. We have many exciting events to share with our client base and would like to continue expanding our efforts in the Seattle immigrant and refugee community.

In recognition of the accomplishments we achieved in the past quarter, we would like to first congratulate our graduates of our ESL and Technology programs. In the usual Helping Link tradition, teachers presented graduation certificates to their students in an intimate graduation ceremony. This was followed by a hearty dinner and touching moments when students stood up to thank their teachers for their encouragement and patience. These programs have been successful through the dedicated efforts of our volunteers.

In complement to this graduation ceremony, in May, we participated in the Seattle Foundation’s annual GiveBIG fund raiser with an open house. Students, teachers, and volunteers mingled on a rare sunny day. Two of our students even gave a spring roll-making presentation. Check out our Facebook page for pictures of these memorable moments and freshly made spring rolls. We would also like to extend a special thank you to our food sponsors for their delicious donations.

Helping Link has relied on donations through the years to serve the Vietnamese community. With the impending construction of the navigation centre in the International District, now more than ever, we need donations to continue to support and empower the community. We’ve reflected on the services and support through the years by featuring interviews with two generations of clients whose lives have been touched by Helping Link.

Upcoming Events

Are you looking to improve your English skills and job opportunities? Don’t forget to check out our upcoming summer and technology classes!


July 11th – August 17th

Which classes are offered?

ESL and Citizenship Class

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 – 8 PM

Technology Class

Wednesdays at 6 – 8 PM

These are free services available to immigrant and refugee clients. We have dedicated ESL, citizenship, and technology tutors who work closely with clients to improve on English language fluency and skills needed to help our clients find new opportunities for a successful career path.

We are also looking for new volunteers to help with this upcoming summer program.

If you are interested in volunteering for this summer quarter or have any questions, please contact

GiveBIG 2017

The Strength of Our Community

We are grateful to our generous donors and dedicated team of volunteers who helped us raise $13,619 during GiveBIG in May!

We saw great attendance at our Open House and Rally sharing delicious food from our restaurant sponsors, learning how to roll spring rolls and spreading awareness of the life-changing work that happens here at Helping Link.

Emily N., our host for the Open House reflected, “It was an incredible honor to be able to support Helping Link at the GiveBIG event. The drive and ambition to raise money to help those in our Vietnamese community was a pleasure to witness. I had an amazing experience working with everyone at Helping Link and could really sense the abundance of love for our culture and people.”

Alice L., an attendee of our Open House shared, “I learned at the event that Helping Link is a special organization nurtured by its dedicated volunteers giving back to their community. Their work outshines their hidden and modest location.”

Thank you for being a donor, volunteer or friend to Helping Link. Our work becomes even more important as our immigrant and refugee population is experiencing increasing uncertainty and fear. To continue to provide vital community services, your support is much needed.

Reflections from GiveBIG 2017

By Ling Lee

As a native from Singapore and arriving to a thriving southeast Asian community in Seattle, I joined Helping Link earlier this year as an outlet to make an impact to our community. Starting out as a member of the Public Relations & Communications team, I remember the day I started as a participant in the second committee meeting for GiveBIG. At first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information being shared, and intimidated by the goal set that year. It was only my first day! I quickly changed my mind after hearing my fellow GiveBIG committee members brainstorm and share their knowledge of fundraisers. Everyone was eager to contribute and work toward the success of the fundraiser.

The fund raiser would be conducted as an open house for Helping Link. We thought it would be a great idea to invite donors to come by and learn about our services and meet our students. As the workload was distributed among the teams, I found myself naively volunteering to secure refreshments and entrees for the open house.

Ambitiously, I approached trendy Asian restaurants and bars around the Central district. Weeks passed and I had been rejected by most of them. At this point, I started panicking: There would be no refreshments for our guests, the open house could be a disaster and Helping Link’s credibility would go into question.

I turned to my committee team members and Minh-Duc for advice. They were immensely encouraging and gave me helpful suggestions to instead approach eateries in the International district. A few days later I was introduced to Thao, a fellow Helping Link volunteer, and we started on memorable walks around the International district. Memorable because the contrast between the eateries I’d contacted before and those in International district was remarkable. Through a series of smiles and head nods while Thao translated in Vietnamese, many of the businesses agreed to donate food almost immediately. Some of these eateries were mere hole-in-wall outfits and yet were enthusiastic about donating their culinary specialties to Helping Link. We secured food donations in half the time it took previously.

The day of our open house finally arrived, after months of planning and preparation. Friends and families of both students and volunteers came by with a wonderful surprise of home-made dishes and dessert. One of notable highlights I remember was a cake baked by a former 90-year-old client, Ms. Lê, who had heard about the fundraiser and wanted to send her gratitude to Helping Link but was unable to attend the open house. Two of the clients prepared spring rolls as part of a cooking demonstration, an effort done on their own time and resources. It was very heart-warming to know that Helping Link’s clients showed their participation and dedication through these gestures to support the sustainbility of the services and initiatives Helping Link has provided throughout the years. The open house was a success, and we had more than enough to eat.

The funds we raised are very important to Helping Link, but GiveBIG 2017 wasn’t just about that to me. It was the knowledge of the passion volunteers had from numerous iterations of planning and organizing to seeking out support from our business partners to ensure the success of this event. Big kudos to our volunteers and business partners for a fun and memorable GiveBig 2017!

My participation in GiveBIG 2017 will definitely be one of my best memories in Helping Link.

Reflections From Our Clients

Thiên Le

Thiên Lê

Like a pebble that creates ripples in the water, Helping Link made the first positive ripple in my life. These ripples have grown with me through the years.

A former student at Helping Link, Helping Link will always be close to my heart. As I recall it, I was probably in the 5th grade when my father realized that I had nothing to do over the summer. As full time workers and refugees to the United States, my parents realized they needed someone to watch me while also providing me with a fun and exciting summer. I can’t thank my parents enough; Helping Link was a perfect fit.

During that summer, I had a tutor work with me to help improve my writing skills. As English is my second language, Helping Link provided me with a ton of needed support. I also remember my fellow students and I went on a number of field trips, which was great because I received some freedom from home that summer!

Although I was only at Helping Link for a year, I was able to build a connection that continues to last today. Personally, it is heartwarming to know that I am still recognized by familiar faces at Helping Link. Beginning as a small 5th grader who had no idea what middle school would be like. Helping Link was there to help me transition from elementary school to middle school. At the time, Helping Link served as a bridge connecting me to whatever I needed.

What’s more, Helping Link continues to honor its connection with me today. Currently, I am an undergrad at the University of Washington working at a non-profit organization named Vietnam Health Clinic, which requires me to travel to Vietnam to help rural areas with medical needs. As a non-profit, we needed a lot of help financially. I simply reached out to Helping Link with a single email and Minh-Duc responded readily to help an old student she hadn’t heard from since 2009.

Minh-Duc’s helpfulness showed me that Helping Link not only cares for its students throughout their program participation, but also follows our journeys long after we are no longer a daily part of Helping Link. I’d like to give a special thank you to Minh-Duc. While I only knew her personally for a year, she has treated and cared for me as more than a student. Minh-Duc’s love and genuineness assures me that there will be continuous support for students like myself no matter how tough things get. Her honest heart drives me to continue to push myself to my goals and dreams in order to make sure I do right for the people who have played a part in my own journey. Like a pebble that creates a ripple in the water, Helping Link made the first positive ripple in my life. These ripples have grown with me through the years.

In the future, it is my hope that I can serve as a bridge that connects Helping Link to families and students that find themselves in the same situation I was.

Ms. Thịnh Lê

Ms. Thịnh Lê

Helping Link’s life lessons helped me through my late husband’s treatment at the hospital. Words like “discharge” and “restroom” were things I carried with me from my time in Helping Link, and these simple words carried me a long way.

Without organizations like Helping Link, many immigrant families, children, and elderly people would be struggling to find their voice and ability in America.

Throughout the 24 years of operation, Helping Link has helped many people of all ages arriving to the United States. Back in 1990s, the second major wave of Vietnamese immigration came to big cities like Seattle. Many come with hopes and dreams for a better opportunities and independence. Among this wave of immigrants, a large number of elderly newcomers comprise of this rising percentage. Many elderly whose cognitive learning speed has significantly decreased over time also have dreams and hopes for a better future. The need and ability to learn a new language can be difficult for many elderly immigrants. Finding the resources to help these individuals learn the basic necessities to live a relatively independent life and find new opportunities can be a struggle for many. However, with Helping Link’s resources, many doors have opened up for older individuals like Ms. Thịnh Lê, who arrived in Seattle when she was 70 years old. She came to Seattle with the sole purpose of living her life independently and to do so, this started with learning the culture, the basics of everyday living, and a completely new language.

Upon arriving to interview Ms. Thịnh Lê on a high-rise floor of the an apartment right across from a local hospital, there was already a small sense of admiration for a lady who is now in her 90s. Even though she lived on one of the top floors, her ability and determination to do things on her own made a large impression on the life she paved for herself.

As one of Helping Link’s very first clients, she recalled seeing a few ads posted in the community as well as the fact that her relatives mentioned the ads to her. Determined to make a life for herself without her family’s help, she decided to take a 30-minute bus ride to Helping Link from her relative’s house. Upon meeting Minh Duc and the volunteers at Helping Link, she was very impressed by the ESL and citizenship classes Helping Link had to offer and planted herself in the heart of the classroom immediately after.

Upon starting her ESL and citizenship classes at Helping Link in 1993, she would commute twice a week by bus to attend the evening classes. During her three years at Helping Link, she was very dedicated to her studies. While studying, Ms. Lê remembers Helping Link’s dedication to their students and having the patience and ability to explain concepts clearly. The patience and kindness has motivated not only Ms. Lê but also many others to continue with their studies and pass their citizenship test. To many and to Ms. Lê, Helping Link was a close-knit community and a second home. Among one of the greatest memories at Helping Link was a celebration Minh Duc put together for all the ESL students. Ms. Lê was nominated as Helping Link’s model student for her perseverance and dedication to her studies. As Helping Link’s oldest student, she had the tenacity to ask questions and continue to push herself more to master more complex English vocabulary.

Ms. Thịnh Lê recalls that as a new immigrant in Seattle, Helping Link contributed tremendously to her life. Not only did it help her with to learn English and to pass her citizenship test at the end of 1995, it also taught her basic life lessons in American society. The most memorable part of Helping Link was learning how to purchase a bus ticket and what to do when crossing the street. In many southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, there are no rules or regulations to crossing the street. Helping Link taught Ms. Lê what to do when crossing the street or what to do when asking for directions. In her words, she mentions “Helping Link’s life lessons helped me through my late husband’s treatment at the hospital. Words like ‘discharge’ and ‘restroom’ were things I carried with me from my time in Helping Link and these simple words carried me a long way. After Helping Link, I carry a pocket translator with me to help communicate with others on things I may not know.”

Even after her years since coming to Helping Link, Ms. Lê still keeps up to date with the significant progress and expansion Helping Link has made over the past two decades. To the current volunteers and staff of Helping Link, she continues to support Helping Link’s cause. It is near the end of our discussion with Ms. Lê when she mentions words of support that resonate strongly with many of Helping Link’s past clients.

“Without their [volunteers’] dedication and willingness to help people like me, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Helping Link is the life of the community and brings people together with the sole purpose of improving their skills and ability to succeed in American society. The curriculum has been the best I have ever had and I would continue to wish the best for Helping Link and longevity of the organization. Without organizations like Helping Link, many immigrant families, children, and elderly people would be struggling to find their voice and ability in America. Helping Link not only provides English and citizenship test but provides skills that last a lifetime.”

Without question, Ms. Lê goes on to highlight the importance of keeping programs like Helping Link to not only the Vietnamese American community, but to all immigrants in the Seattle area.

“I would highly encourage others to join Helping Link’s programs/services. In fact, my caretaker, Bac Thao, has joined Helping Link’s ESL classes since last September on my request. Helping Link is vital to helping the Vietnamese American community, especially for elderly people. Many came with their families and have lived here for some time but do not have the basic necessities to live independent lives. Having resources like Helping Link is significant to advance our community with people of different backgrounds and ages.”

Upon the end of our visit with Ms. Lê, her continued motivation even through her 90s show the tremendous growth and opportunities she embarked upon finding resources such as Helping Link. From a language barrier to a loved one’s passing, she used the skills and knowledge she gained from her time at Helping Link and leveraged this to create a better life in America for herself.