Our president, Tammy Nguyen, recently sat down and did an interview on behalf of ATG for Pegasus News in Dalllas. You check out the original article here!
Former Dallas beauty queen founds organization to help orphans in Vietnam
Tammy Nguyen Lee has never forgotten her roots.
Filmmaker, model, honors graduate of Southern Methodist University, and a former Miss Asian-American Texas, she lives the American dream with her husband George, a regional manager for Johnson & Johnson, in an upscale part of North Dallas.
Life wasn’t always so seemingly easy, though.
Born in Vietnam, Tammy’s life was, like many others, displaced after the Vietnam War. She and her mother fled Saigon more than 30 years ago when she was only three months old, spending more than a year and a half in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. Eventually, they were sponsored by a church in Maryland, and arrived in the United States in 1981. She came to Texas to join friends and family in 1983, where she has lived ever since.
Determined to honor her heritage, she helped create Against the Grain Productions, an IRS-established charity and media production house to help Vietnamese orphans, with her husband and mother.
“[The name] embodies my philosophy of life in general – not wanting to do just what’s expected of you and thinking outside of the box and being creative,” she says.
The group helps Vietnamese orphanages obtain resources like food, clothes, and education. While this can be as simple as sending money, it often involves trips to Vietnam to distribute goods in person. It’s a complicated process that has Tammy visiting markets in Vietnam, negotiating prices for supplies, ensuring that donations don’t get waylaid by corruption, and physically delivering supplies to orphanages.
“In the United States, you can just drop stuff off at the Salvation Army or go to the local CostCo or Sam’s Club and just stick it in your SUV, but over there, it’s a lot more challenging of an ordeal,” she says.
George found the first trip to Vietnam to be a life-changing experience.
“We live in such a great county [where] things are pretty plentiful and life is pretty decent, but when you compare to going over there and seeing these particular orphanages [and see] that the everyday struggle is about being able to buy food and shelter and all these basic necessities — that was very eye opening,” he says.
Tammy even made a film devoted to the topic called Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam; it’s being featured at the upcoming Vietnamese Film Festival in Westminster, Calif. on April 4.
Closer to home, they’re hosting Fashion for a Passion, a night of music, food, and style on Saturday March 21, with proceeds going to their charity. The show will be held at the LandCo./7 Senses club in the Dallas design district, and will feature the work of Asian-American designers.
Like so much of what Tammy does, it not only helps her charity but also supports creative endeavors by people whose background she shares.
“I think it’s really just a great opportunity for people to see what’s coming out of the Asian-American community in terms of design,” she says. “Not only are you being entertained by something that is universally relatable like fashion, but in addition to that you are [helping to raise] money for a very worthy cause. I think that’s a pretty powerful thing there.”