Connecting with the Vietnamese community, Tammy Dang, maximizes information and entertainment technology

We recently connected with our Community Liaison, Tammy Dang, to talk about how the pandemic has impacted the Vietnamese community and the ways she has used technology to continue bringing her community together.

Can you tell me a little about yourself and your work as a Community Liaison for the Department of Neighborhoods?

I’ve been in Seattle since 2005 and have been a community link for over five years. As a Community Liaison, they are a bridge between the government system and community members. I share information with the community, conduct seminars, facilitate meetings, and help the community understand information from the city or county. This is especially important for projects that have a direct impact on community members. I help share their concerns and wishes so their voice is heard, which can be difficult for many people due to the language barrier. I am using my bilingual skills in Vietnamese to help them and I also do translation and interpreting.

How did you see the impact of the pandemic on the Vietnamese community?

The pandemic has had a big impact on the Vietnamese community because most of them work closely in person and are not tech savvy. When the quarantine took place, it was a great challenge for them. But fortunately, we have strong community support. We contacted each other by phone and moved on to virtual meetings. It helped maintain bonds with each other, encourage each other, and take care of each other’s mental health. But those first few months were busy because many people weren’t familiar with using virtual meeting platforms. I remember with one person it took me 45 minutes just to help her join a meeting, not video or Zoom, just call. Even small steps like adding the pin number could be confusing as it was unfamiliar. One thing I admire about that person, and everyone I’ve worked with, is their patience. It has taken some time to get comfortable with the technology, but they never give up and are always willing to learn something new. They go with the flow and once they get it, they would be there every week, easily and bring friends!

One thing I also did was record my voice or video and send it to people so they could hear and see the message instead of just in writing. In the past it was nice to see each other in person and hear the voices. Hence, I would do anything to confuse it with a video to greet and remind them of COVID protocols or to attend a meeting. They nicknamed me Tammy Radio! When I texted they would say, “Oh, there you have it, Tammy Radio is on!”

At the start of the pandemic, you started an online group to share information. Can you tell me a little about that group and how it helped keep your community connected?

In April 2020, when COVID hit our area and quarantine was starting to happen, I had the idea of ​​creating a virtual meeting room. I created a video on how to participate and sent it to people to help get them into the room. We started each week with the intention of sharing information related to COVID, having a space where people could share their struggles with the community so they could help support each other and simply provide an opportunity for human connection that could continue outside the meeting as well.

After that, in the last part of an hour and a half, they are singing. I realized that entertainment and music were things that could bring people joy and connect them with each other even during quarantine. I am the host and helped them coordinate and figure out who would sing each song and arrange the order. They sing Vietnamese songs, English songs, country music and modern music. All kinds of songs, they love to sing! I also started creating a poster to promote the meeting each week and to introduce different people. They felt like celebrities! One person said to me “I always dream of being on that poster someday because I love to sing, but I’ve never had a chance to be on stage and you make me feel so special.” I just like to encourage them, join, participate and support other members.

How do you think we can continue to use technology to help people stay connected to each other and to their language and heritage?

We’re happy that even though we’re able to film meetings in person, it’s nice to have virtual space as an option. They are convenient and add more events and opportunities to connect with the community. They like to have more activity and engagement and have the technology set up already. It has also worked well for people who have attended government meetings or forums, so they don’t have to understand the logistics of getting there. It is a convenient way to participate. I just sent them a reminder about the day and time of the meeting and they show up.

Our group still meets for two groups of virtual meetings per week; one is for information and entertainment through singing, and the other is for information and prayer. No matter your religion, we have Buddhists and Christians, and we just get together to share our burden or our struggle, or someone they know who needs prayer, and we get together and pray. It has been consistent every week since the pandemic happened. I have people from four different states calling constantly. I enjoy doing these things because I can see the difference just being there makes for community members of all ages. I have a group of seniors, a group of parents with disabled children and middle-aged people. They all come together. Honestly, some of them don’t even know who they are because they were just referred by a friend. I love doing it.

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