Who are we?
The Little Saigon Foundation of San Diego (LSF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to develop the Little Saigon District of City Heights by revitalizing infrastructure in the community, promoting Vietnamese culture and tourism in the area, and engaging youth, residents, and businesses in civic responsibilities. We aim to advance intersectional equity for the Vietnamese community by empowering vulnerable and underserved families and individuals (especially LEP individuals) to advocate for themselves in order to achieve greater self-sufficiency, economic independency, and community participation.
What do we do?
To fulfill our mission, we prioritize the scope of our work into 4 areas:
- Branding the Little Saigon District and revitalizing its infrastructure
- Promoting the rich heritage of the ethnic community
- Enhancing the quality of life of residents through social services
- Empowering the community through civic engagement
Why do we do it?
According to recent US Census, the Vietnamese population in San Diego County has almost doubled within the last decade. The history of Vietnamese Americans is fairly recent. The Vietnamese arrived under circumstances quite different from those encountered by today’s typical legal immigrant. The story of the Vietnamese experience is one of pain and loss, loss of nation, home, family, culture, and identity. Ravaged by war, violently pushed out of our home country, suffering war-related loss and psychological trauma, accompanied with feeling of loss, separation, and helplessness, Vietnamese have come far to reestablish our roots here in America.
Historically, in the United States, almost every newly arrived group has felt the need to express its community identity through the creation of its own enclave; Vietnamese are no different. Little Saigon has become a collective memory, collective past, and a sense of identity reconnect to what Vietnamese have left behind. Little Saigon offers a sense of acceptance, belonging, and social ties—“I don’t consider myself a minority when I am in Little Saigon District’’ Luong Long. Compare this to the feeling of “unwelcome” or the constant awareness of being “different” because of physical traits, both of which many Vietnamese felt when walking through a social gathering place dominated by American mainstream, such as a Westfield mall.
For the newly arrived, Little Saigon provides a cultural buffer zone, a cultural bridge, helping to minimize the stress of transition and culture shock. The Little Saigon provides newcomers with much needed employment, a steppingstone into the process of emerging into the mainstream. Unlike many employers (in English-speaking society), those in the enclave do not care whether they speak English, as primary communication takes place in Vietnamese.
Let’s be clear: the concept of Americanization, assimilation, and living and chasing the classic American dream do not demand the sacrifice of immigrant culture, history, language, and tradition. While Little Saigon has become not only the commercial hub but the emotional focal point of the Vietnamese community, it is also a clear message to the host country—a desire of the Vietnamese immigrant community to strike permanent roots in the newly adopted land.