“Many of these Amerasian kids hear so many good things about America, but when they get here, the kids are forgotten,” says Van Tran, a Vietnamese Mutual Assistance Association (VMAA) volunteer who emigrated from Vietnam at the age of 12. VMAA provides social services to the Asian community in East Dallas.

Van spends evenings helping Asian students with homework. The students often have been in the United States less than two years and don’t speak English. As a result, they fall behind at school.

“If we don’t teach them now, they’re going to become involved in gangs and drugs. They don’t know any better,” she says.

Van began volunteering four years ago, agreeing to help with a girls’ Explorer troop. She volunteers 10 to 20 hours each week and is assistant leader for a VMAA-sponsored Girl Scout troop. She works with the 30 members twice each week.

Because not enough volunteers are available, however, the girls’ troops often participate in joint activities with Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops.

“Everything is still fascinating to these kids,” Van says. “They haven’t formed an opinion about how life should be yet.”

“What people don’t realize about volunteering is what you get back. These kids teach me about what I’ve forgotten about Vietnam. We teach each other.”

The VMAA needs volunteers for tutoring, information and referral services, English-as-a-second-language classes, and emergency assistance. Volunteers don’t have to speak a foreign language to help.

Volunteers also are needed to assist with holiday parties.

Volunteer Opportunities

The Volunteer Center (826-6767) is a United Way agency serving as a clearing house to recruit and refer volunteers for more than 750 agencies in Dallas. Thousands of volunteer positions are available. A few examples are:

YOU CAN PLAY SANTA CLAUSE and help senior citizens with holiday shopping. Volunteers are needed to help residents of the Juliette Fowler Homes by providing transportation and wrapping gifts. Singers and other entertainers also are needed for a holiday program at these East Dallas retirement apartments for handicapped and low-income seniors.

CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS with teenage girls undergoing drug rehabilitation. Nexus Inc. is a structured rehabilitation program teaching girls to develop and maintain sobriety, enhance family relationships and increase self-esteem. Volunteers are needed to organize holiday parties and help the girls make holiday craft items the week of December 20.

IF YOU LOVE A PARADE, volunteer for the 35th annual Cotton Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day. Hundreds of volunteers are needed to man telephones, coordinate pre-parties, assist with rehearsals, serve as float hosts, handle balloons, and answer parade-day questions. Orientation is scheduled December 8.

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