Women's History Month - March 2017

For each day of Women's History Month, we will honor an inspiring Vietnamese American woman who may not make headlines but whose stories display determination, persistence, and courage.

Chau Smith

To celebrate her 70th birthday, Chau Smith ran seven marathons on seven continents on seven consecutive days - and she ran them in her pink hat made popular by the Women's March on Washington.  From January 25 to 31, 2017, Ms. Smith ran marathons in Perth, Australia; Singapore; Cairo, Egypt; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Garden City, New York; Punta Arenas, Chile; and King George Island, Antarctica.

Ms. Smith, born in Vietnam, has had a pieces of shrapnel stuck in her arm and leg as a result of the Vietnam War.  After immigrating to the United States, she worked at various jobs while simultaneously helping her four siblings' families to come to and transition to life in America.  It was during this time that she joined her husband on his runs to alleviate stress.  

When asked why she wore her pink hat during the marathons, Ms. Smith said, "I hope I don't offend anyone, but I'm a woman. I have daughters. I have a granddaughter. I run to represent the women.  I'm against any man, powerful man, who think they can do anything they want to women without our consent, without our permission."

Let's hope Ms. Smith's determination to run right after Trump's inauguration is a foreshadowing of all the minorities and women who will run for office.  

Annie Vu Diaconu

Annie Vu Diaconu is a Bay Area, California native.   Her love for the startup world and desire to build a diverse and inclusive community led her to a role on Lyft’s legal team. Ms. Diaconu is currently a lead for one of Lyft's Employment Resource Groups - UpLyft Women.  As a lead, she provides resources and opportunities to create and build initiatives to help empower women at Lyft. Ms. Diaconu's mentorship and guidance have been positively impactful at Lyft headquarters and she is looking forward to expanding membership to other offices nationwide.

When Ms. Diaconu is not spending her time at Lyft, she serves as a board member for the Tenderloin Economic Development Project (TEDP). She is a devoted community service advocate and strives to help the small businesses in the Tenderloin by creating programs designed to help the local restaurants in San Francisco’s Little Saigon through partnerships and strategy. Her past global efforts include raising funds for communities abroad, survivors of human trafficking, and orphanages from Nepal, Vietnam, Costa Rica to Cambodia.  

Ms. Diaconu's next big project will be working with Center of Asian American Media (CAAM) to produce her first documentary, highlighting talented individuals in the Asian American community.

Evelyn Nguyen

In 2009, Evelyn Nguyen moved to Vietnam to start a business.  During the two years that she lived there, she met quite a few expatriates who also understood the extreme poverty problems the country faced.  They created an informal group to raise funds and solicit volunteers.  They visited various orphanages, learned of their operations, and contributed help wherever help was needed.  Most of the assistance they provided covered basic needs – food, over-the-counter medication, and school supplies. 

She has continued that work even upon returning to the United States.  Ms. Nguyen makes occasional trips to Vietnam to visit different orphanages, play with the children, and provide basic financial assistance.  She has even helped build homes and teach people skills so they could become financially independent.  Since she is not part of a formal group, Ms. Nguyen does everything herself – she meets with and talks to each individual and orphanage, accesses their needs, and comes up with a plan for long-term sustainability.  On her most recent trip, Ms. Nguyen was able to gift 50 Lunar New Year (Tết ) gifts to students from extremely poor families and sponsor 10 children so they could attend school for one year.

For Ms. Nguyen, charity began at home.  Her family had very little when they first immigrated to the United States, but her parents made room to welcome new immigrants in their already-crowded home and helped them in whatever way possible.  Ms. Nguyen models her behavior after her parents’ generosity.

Ms. Nguyen is currently working with two friends – one in Vietnam and one in the United States – to help the poor in Vietnam.  They are setting up leather workshops and staffing it with victims of domestic abuse and young people who are now too old to live in orphanages.  She is teaching them marketable skills so they too can become independent entrepreneurs like her and eventually give back to the community.  

Ms. Nguyen on her most recent trip to Vietnam.

Ms. Nguyen on her most recent trip to Vietnam.

The children gather around Ms. Nguyen to read.

The children gather around Ms. Nguyen to read.

Phi Nguyen

Phi Nguyen is a second-generation Vietnamese American whose parents fled Vietnam by boat in 1978 following the Vietnam War.  Ms. Nguyen was born in a tiny town in Missouri but came of age in the suburban South with her parents and four sisters.  She moved to Atlanta in 2006 to attend Georgia State University for law school and has called Atlanta her home ever since.  A medical malpractice defense attorney by trade, Ms. Nguyen also constantly seeks ways to advocate for marginalized individuals or communities outside of her legal practice.  These days, she dedicates a significant amount of time and energy to increasing civic and political engagement among Vietnamese Americans and other AAPIs, a project she felt compelled to undertake after learning last spring that AAPIs historically have the lowest voter turnout among all races.  In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Ms. Nguyen spearheaded Vietnamese Voices, a grassroots initiative to educate and engage Vietnamese voters in Atlanta.  Through these efforts, she was able to help register roughly 600 new Vietnamese voters in the span of four months, as well as contribute to the threefold increase in the number of registered AAPI voters that Georgia saw from 2012 to 2016.  The biggest reward of all, though, came when she helped her mother vote for the very first time on November 8.  (Yes, her mother was #WithHer).

Ms. Nguyen's dedication to this work stems from her belief that governments work best when they represent all communities.  She also believes that AAPIs themselves must lead the effort to educate their communities and bring their voices to the table.  Currently, she is leading PIVOT's effort to engage with Vietnamese voters in Georgia's Sixth Congressional District about why Jon Ossoff will represent the interests of the Vietnamese-American community and ask them to vote for him on April 18.