Vu had learned everything she needed to know about America from television shows and movies, but nothing could have prepared her for that first Oregon winter and the harsh weather that accompanied it. It was much different from the mild tempered climate in her hometown of Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam.
In 2018, Vu made the 7,309 mile voyage to America with her firstborn son and infant daughter to be reunited with her husband who came on his own several years earlier. After arriving in America, Vu felt for the most part that her dreams for her family had finally been realized. But she quickly came to learn that adapting to a new culture, especially as a mother, was no small task.
Vu’s husband works as a TNC operator away from the home. Vu took on the roll of stay-at-home parent and fulltime teacher but adapting to life in a new culture was full of challenges—some more unexpected than others. Not only was she kept busy translating things like languages and dollar values, but also less expected by her, translating parenting styles. It quickly became clear that the traditional parenting methods from Vietnam might not always adapt well in a new western culture that was governed by an entirely different value system. Unsure where to start, Vu knew that she wanted to create the best foundation for success she could for her children as citizens in a new home country. When she met Kimlien, an Early Learning Coordinator at IRCO, everything changed.
Vu and her son enrolled in our Children and Parent Intervention Program (CAPI), which offers skill building activities for children ages 0–5 and reinforces the philosophy that parents are their children’s first teachers. Not only did Kimlien and her coworkers facilitate educational activities with students as well as making regular home visits to assess progress and future needs (prior to COVID-19), but they also gave Vu a crash course on navigating cross cultural parenting.
“CAPI provides parents resources and support for child development, enriches parenting skills and helps to meld the cultural differences in parenting styles of both cultures while finding resources for the children,” says Kimlien.
Vu, now a mother of 3, has been actively involved with IRCO’s Early Learning Program for two years. She says the highlight for her children has been the visits from IRCO caseworkers who would spend time at their home playing with her children and engaging with the family. Beyond that though, over the last two years she has watched her children surpass her English-speaking abilities and gain critical thinking skills to observe the world around them. She has seen her oldest son make friends and come out of his shell socially. As children who are learning to straddle the line of two cultures, her simple hope for her family is this:
“I hope that my children would grow up to be good people with good social skills, create a home for themselves in America and eventually raise families of their own to do the same,” says Vu.
When Vu first reached out to IRCO, she hoped to gain resources and skills for her children, but she never anticipated the community she would find through the IRCO staff who invested in her children. Vu’s relationship with IRCO staff continues to grow over their shared dreams for her family. Last September, Vu and her husband bought their first house, an accomplishment showing how far their family has come. Kimlien and IRCO are there to cheer them on at each step toward creating a home in Portland.
This year has been a challenge for everyone. At IRCO, we still look ahead—and are empowered by the strength of the communities we work with. We create the foundation for families to thrive when they come to the US, like our children’s programs that help kids prepare for kindergarten.
A gift from you will ensure that the disruptions of the pandemic and election year will not impact the services IRCO clients need—services that empower families like Vu and her children.