Van Duong, Vietnamese Association of IL
Van Duong has been a health education promoter at the Vietnamese Association of Illinois (VAI) for over 20 years. After the fall of Saigon, Van and her husband endured a hard life in Vietnam and finally escaped in 1979 following an arduous trek across the jungles and landmine-strewn fields of Cambodia before finding safety in a refugee camp in Thailand. Together with her husband, she was transferred to an UN refugee camp in Indonesia and eventually resettled in Chicago in 1980.
Van’s first child was born in 1981, shortly after arriving in Chicago. Her husband died unexpectedly in 1982, when Van was pregnant with her second child. A single mom with 2 young children living in a city with limited English skills, Van was determined to provide for her daughters the opportunities and future for which she and her husband had risked their lives for. Over the next 10 years, Van worked her way through ESL classes and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences from DePaul University. She found a job as a computer specialist and a chance encounter led her to a job with Heartland Alliance to provide language assistance and case management for Vietnamese refugees arriving in Chicago.
She later found employment at the VAI and over the last 2 decades, her role at the VAI has evolved into that of a community health worker who enjoys the trust and respect of the people she served. Van has earned a reputation as being helpful and committed to the needs of her community. She is known to the local community in the Uptown neighborhood and to the nearby suburbs where the Vietnamese community resides.
The Asian Health Coalition has worked with Van for over 10 years in bringing health programs to the Vietnamese community including women’s health breast and cervical cancer, viral hepatitis and mental health. Van has lived through hard times which has built her passion to help those in need. As a practicing buddhist she continues to live by the doctrine of “karma” that one receives goodness in as much as one does good for others. Van hopes to eventually retire in California to spend some much-deserved time with her siblings and her 2 adorable grandchildren!