Photo caption: Chinh Cao, 74, of Mukilteo, gains computer skills from Helping Link. Photo credit: Bruce Fleming.
In the last 20 years, Helping Link has become a mainstay among the non-profits in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District and the region’s Asian-American community.
The Vietnamese immigrants who are served by Helping Link’s English and computer classes have come to the U.S. recently and years ago.
They range widely in age and English ability. They come mostly from King County. The Vietnamese-American population in the Puget Sound area numbers more than 60,000.
One of those clients is Chinh Cao, a 74-year-old Mukilteo resident.
A teacher in Vietnam, she escaped the country following the war on a fishing boat from the Mekong Delta in 1979 with her two sons, then ages 8 and 9, and dozens of others. She and her shipmates also survived a lack of food and water, and a pirate attack, before landing on an Indonesian island and eventually flying to New York City.
She recently finished taking basic computer classes at Helping Link where she learned to use the Internet, create folders on a Windows-based PC, send and track email and create attachments.
The email and computer skills help her keep in touch with her family and friends. She also works part-time as caregiver at Virginia Mason and becoming more digitally literate helps her there too.
“Very good people,” Cao said of the staff, volunteers and other clients she’s met at Helping Link. “They have the community and volunteers, they do a good job here. It’s amazing.”
The organization celebrates its 20th anniversary with a gala event starting at 6 p.m. at the Mercer Island Community Center, Sunday, Sept. 22.
The celebration expects to attract about 250 community members and features a catered dinner, silent auction and keynote address from Beacon Hill native and state senator Bob Hasegawa, a Seattle Democrat.
Helping Link, or Một Dấu Nối, founded in 1993 by Executive Director Minh-Duc Nguyen and other Vietnamese professionals, has served thousands of people over the years, including 1,146 participants in 2012 alone. It started as an information and referral service to link families to social services at the Rainier Vista Garden Community in 1993.
Most of the immigrants and refugees served by Helping Link are low-income, with most of them earning below 50 percent of King County’s median income. Throughout its history, the classes and activities there have helped immigrants improve their English, learn digital literacy skills and promote youth leadership.
Helping Link received its first major funding to provide social services in 2001 and moved into its permanent office in 2002 in Little Saigon near Twelfth Avenue South and Jackson Street.
The nonprofit is always looking for volunteers and new students, and offers Vietnamese as a Second Language classes as well.
Learn more at www.helpinglink.org.