Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

46P Creating Space: Asset Building for Sustainable Community Among Vietnamese Americans In New Orleans, a Case Study

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Brian Trung Lam, PhD, Associate Professor, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA
Purpose: On August 29th, 2005, Katrina swept through the gulf coast and left a path of destruction which has changed the dynamic of a Vietnamese ethnic enclave community in New Orleans East. Considerable media attention has focused on the fast returned rate of the Vietnamese Americans. Leong and her colleagues (2007) reported over 90 percent of Vietnamese American residents had returned to New Orleans East by spring 2007. The current study explores asset building as a community revitalization strategy among the Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans. Recent studies suggest an association between the contextual attributes of the neighborhood and personal wellbeing and civic behaviors (see Page-Adams and Sherraden, 1997). Airriess and colleagues (2007) reported the important role of the parish church in creating networks proved critical in rebuilding community. In a representative sample of working-age Vietnamese living in New Orleans, Vu and colleagues (2009) reported that the Vietnamese returnees, after one year of the storm, were more likely to be employed in skilled sectors, owned a home, and married. However, fear of violence crime and lack of access to medical care and information were paramount among this group. Using space and identity theory, the current study focuses on (1) the geographical access to community resources that have been empirically linked to community wellbeing; (2) effort in creating and protecting space for sustainable community.

Method: A community data was established for the New Orleans East zip code area using New Orleans 211 community data base. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) were applied to calculate service proximity (accessibility). The study also incorporates data from local newspapers and interviews with community leaders and advocates. Literature indicates newspapers are good source of documenting civic behaviors, collective action, and social movements (Okamoto, 2007).

Results: The result of GIS mapping indicates limited services in the area of New Orleans East. Noticeable variation in terms of accessibility to community resources was found between different neighborhoods. Further, the analysis finds a strong collective force of co-ethnic bonding headed by the Mary Queen of Vietnam, a community development organization. This collective effort has generated community assets through creating four spaces (Feenstra, 2001): (1) social space: the development of community places such farmer markets, youth organization, intercultural charter school, community health center for community celebration and socialization; (2) political space: community members involvement in successfully contesting a landfill, running for community positions, civic participations; and community development; (3) intellectual space: vision of urban farm; (4) economic space: the ability to energize local economy through the revenues from urban farm.

Implication: The finding suggests that community can be revitalized and sustained by creating spaces for bonding and bridging social capitals. These spaces serve as foundation for long term goals of community wellbeing, and for discussion of challenges in intra and inter-groups interaction.