Washington, D.C. (July 30, 2010) – One hundred days after the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster on April 20, Vietnamese American youth descended on Washington, DC to highlight community needs still lingering in the Gulf Coast. The purpose was to share their concerns at a community briefing on Capitol Hill Friday that was hosted by the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans (VAYLA-NO) and the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (uNAVSA).
Issues that were brought up during the briefing included economic hardships, language barriers, mental health issues, and barriers to job training still facing Vietnamese American and other Southeast Asian American fishing communities in the Gulf.
Much of community members’ frustrations are directed at the BP claims process and the Vessels of Opportunity employment program. In informal interviews with fishermen that continue to travail through the BP claims and employment processes.
The fishermen stated to the Vietnamese groups that BP policies change sporadically from day to day, and that by the time they make it to one of the BP site offices, they walk out unable to fully complete the process for compensation or a job.
Hundreds are going back and forth from one site to another seeking help and are being turned away time and time again.
“BP has only provided the bare bones of what is needed to fully support the community in recovery and compensation,” stated Minh Nguyen, executive director, VAYLA-NO. “Many of the fishermen we spoke to have expressed confusion and frustration – confusion from the lack of outreach and communication from BP, and frustration about how to get certified to work on the oil clean up.”
VAYLA’s concerns also extend to how the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Fund is going to be distributed to victims.
At a recent community forum in New Orleans on the Gulf Coast Claims Fund, Kenneth Feinberg, independent administrator of the fund, said the organization is committed to treating all claimants with respect, dignity, and fairness; ensuring that all claimants can equally access the claims process; and ensuring that claims will be adjudicated fairly and that individuals with language barriers will have meaningful access to the process.
VAYLA youth and uNAVSA members want to hold Mr. Feinberg accountable to these commitments as well as to urge that culturally competent staff be hired to assist in the process.
“In Vietnamese tradition, the 100th day after the passing of a loved one is marked as a sacred day of commemoration,” stated Song Park, campaign director, VAYLA. “Vietnamese Americans make up one third of the fishing community in the Gulf Coast, and we observe today as the 100th day after thousands of fishermen in the Gulf Coast have lost their livelihood to the oil disaster.
“We’ve come together today to give voice to the problems facing the Gulf Coast fishing community and to ask Mr. Feinberg to include community representatives at the decision making table in processing Gulf Coast Claims Funds.”
The Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans (VAYLA-NO) is a youth-led, youth organizing and development, community-based organization in New Orleans dedicated to the empowerment of Vietnamese American and underrepresented youth through services, cultural enrichment, and positive social change. (www.vayla-no.org)
The Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (uNAVSA) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan, community-based organization founded in 2004. Grounded in the leadership and personal advancement of Vietnamese youth, we are dedicated to the development of tomorrow’s leaders in the Vietnamese community. We serve to represent the collective Vietnamese youth voice as the national umbrella organization for Vietnamese youth-based groups. Our primary members are the leaders and staff of Vietnamese Student Associations (VSAs) at college and university campuses in North America, as well as regional umbrella VSA groups, but we also draw from our network of relationships with young working professionals. (http://unavsa.org) ο