By Kim Cook, May 2012
The Vietnamese Resettlement Association was established over 30 years ago to help provide housing, health and social services for low income refugees in Northern Virginia from Vietnam and other troubled areas of the globe. As foreign born populations in Northern Virginia grew rapidly, the focus broadened to serve low income persons, especially those with limited English proficiency, regardless of background.
From its inception, the VRA has been dedicated to providing culturally and linguistically appropriate assistance, and over time developed a staff that speaks Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, French, Korean and Spanish as well as English. Over the years, the population the VRA serves has grown in diversity and in response the VRA has also built a group of volunteers from the community, who serve as leaders to help reach out and educate their own people. These volunteers supplement the VRA's small staff with professional expertise that adds greatly to its range and capabilities. Moreover, the VRA's central role in community service has been facilitated by growing and working with a vast network of ethnic and religious organizations, local government programs, and service organization providing free or low cost services. Some members of the staff have been hired from low-income housing where many clients reside.
For ten years, the Avon Foundation Breast Care Fund has provided grants for outreach and education. More than 15 years ago, the VRA found that low income women in Northern Virginia were medically underserved, particularly if they had limited English proficiency. As a result, it initiated a breast health program that is now a major focus of the VRA. Since July, 1998 it has educated 5400 low income minority women in Northern Virginia and provided 2300 women with free mammograms and clinical breast exams. The vital program ensures that low income women found to have cancer receive comprehensive social services, including special Medicaid or other low cost or free treatment. The VRA also helps women screen for and deal with cervical cancer, screens them for diabetes and cardiovascular problems and advises them about healthy eating and life style.
The many thousands served by the VRA over three decades now form the foundation both for its good standing in the community and highly successful growth in outreach and services! They provide ready and useful feedback on needs and quality of assistance essential in dynamic and increasingly diverse Northern Virginia.