For decades, US-based Vietnamese-American-led organizations met countless obstacles challenging their development work in Vietnam. They struggled to find the capital and resources to meet the needs of the people, as well as to navigate the harassment, threats, demands of bribery, and lack of recognition they faced. As Vietnamese-American life flourished in USA in the late 1990s and early 2000s, leaders from these organizations felt even more compelled to further the development of Vietnam, having informal and organic conversations about how to best address the needs of Vietnamese people and coming to the consensus that the first step be to find common ground in their efforts and combine forces to face these challenges together with a united front.
In 2004, with pooled funding from a few NGOs and a 3-year funding commitment from the Ford Foundation, 24 organizations came together to create a single united organization, unified in its mission, vision, and goals. As this idea gained traction, other philanthropists, academic experts, and civic leaders from around the USA joined, and with them, more funding from larger foundations such as the Asia Foundation and the Alexander Wallace Gerbode Foundation. VANGO incorporated in August 2008 and received its 501(c)3 tax exempt status in January 2009.
Today, VANGO is led by a board of Vietnamese-American leaders, diverse in talents and expertise, who come together to continue VANGO’s mission and evolve, as appropriate, to meet Vietnam’s changing needs. Such individuals include: Dr. Quynh Kieu, MD, healthcare and pediatric expert, founder and president of Project Vietnam Foundation, and committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Anh-Kim Tran, civic leadership and childhood development expert and co-founder and board treasurer of Pacific Links Foundation; Phuong-Lien Ngo-Nguyen, RN, MSN, nursing lecturer at Cal State University of San Marcos; Thien-Nhien Luong, MPH, epidemiologist, co-founder and president of Design Capital Asia, co-founder of Friends of Hue Foundation, and co-founder of Vietnamese REACH for Health Coalition; Vi Tuong Nguyen, technology expert and Senior IT Manager at Western Digital Corporation; Cathy Lam, environmentalism expert and co-founder and president of Our1World; and Thu-Le Doan, co-founder of Center for the Encouragement of Self Reliance and Vietnamese American Scholarship Fund.