Ai Hoang

Ai Hoang was born in Vietnam and raised in Southern California. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013 with a BA in Sociology. After working for two years as a Supplemental Education Services Tutor and a Development Associate for the Boys & Girls Clubs, Ai returned to graduate school to pursue a Masters of Public Health degree from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. As a student in the Population & Health Department, she is specially interested in working to empower underserved families globally. Upon returning from her fellowship, Ai reflects that "I'm very grateful for the opportunity that AEPD and the families affected by Agent Orange have afforded me this past year. They welcomed me into their home with open arms and shared amazing stories. They helped me understand the issue of Agent Orange on such a personal level and made this experience all the more memorable."



Back to the Start

25 Jun

Family. Crowds. Noise. Traffic. Motorbikes. Mangosteen. Tangled electric lines. Oh, and one can never forget to mention the humidity or the heat. That heat *insert many fire emojis here*.

In all seriousness, these are a few of the things that I’m reminded of when I think of Vietnam, or specifically, Saigon. I think of the house where my sister and I both grew up in, with its blue walls and small garden on the roof. I think of sitting in the front of my dad’s motorbike as a child, weaving in and out of traffic on a particularly humid summer night as he tells me a bedtime story. I think of the city and all that my parents left behind so they could give us the opportunities they never had.

Bits and pieces of Saigon will always feel like home to me, but I’ve grown up and the city has changed. After spending a few days there recovering from jet lag with my grandma, I was ready for some new changes myself. Saigon will always be there, but it was also time for me to make my way to Dong Hoi. I was getting antsy, ready to explore a new city and start my work.

Ngoc from AEPD was kind enough to pick me up from the airport. I like to say she’s my first friend here!

Ngoc from AEPD was kind enough to pick me up from the airport. I like to say she’s my first friend here!

As I make my way across this new city, I couldn’t help but compare Dong Hoi to Saigon. People speak with a different dialect here. I’m definitely still getting used to it; I don’t understand as much I thought I would, but I’m working on it everyday. The city is also much calmer, people siesta for two hours at lunch before resuming their work day (the heat midday calls for a break), and crossing the street has stopped being a life-or-death game of Froggers.

Life here is shaping up to be a lot different from what I’ve grown to expect in Vietnam and I’m enjoying it. During my first week at AEPD, I’m settling in and learning as much about the organization as possible, so I can do effective work for the next six months. This Thursday, AEPD hosted a photographer from Irish Aid, so I was able to join him for a field visit and got the opportunity to meet some of the families AEPD is currently working with. I’ll be uploading these photos to my Flickr and Instagram page very soon. Stay tuned!

Meet Mr. Luong. He's a landmine survivor and an beneficiary of AEPD. He met Mr. Thuan, an AEPD outreach worker, who helped him overcome his depression after the accident and supported him in setting up a small grocery store and fish cages so Mr. Luong and his family can earn an income.

Meet Mr. Luong. He’s a landmine survivor and a beneficiary of AEPD. After the accident, he met Mr. Thuan, an AEPD outreach worker, who helped him overcome his depression and supported him in setting up a small grocery store and fish cages so Mr. Luong and his family can earn an income.

P.S. Here is a picture of a mangosteen. They’re delicious. If you’re ever offered a mangosteen, take it!

Amazing Mangosteen

Posted By Ai Hoang

Posted Jun 25th, 2016

270 Comments

  • Laura Stateler

    June 27, 2016

     

    Glad you arrived safely!! Great blog–it was interesting to read about your life growing up in Vietnam and what it is like returning back!! Keep up the great work!

  • Rachael Hughen

    June 28, 2016

     

    So interesting to hear the differences between Saigon and Dong Hoi, sounds like the city might be a little less hectic but definitely just as interesting. Love your photos so far- a beautiful place with beautiful people!

  • Rita

    July 7, 2016

     

    Ai, glad to hear that you’re settling in and getting used to Dong Hoi, you’re doing a great job on global giving. P.S. I have had a mangosteen before, very delicious and I love it!

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