Vietnam Culture Camp — Unforgettable

ATG’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Aivy Nguyen, returned for another summer volunteering as camp counselor for Catalyst Foundation‘s Vietnamese Culture Camp. Here is her recap of her weekends.

“Two weekends. Two cities. One sad ATG’er who’s sad another year of camp is over.

Yet another wonderful year of camp has passed with more memories and stories with the kids, parents counselors and staff at Catalyst Culture Camps in Northfield, MN and New Haven, CT. With two camps back to back, my culturally fused weekend was a blur of kids, play-time, snack-time, arts, crafts, circle painting and the infamous never-ending piggy back rides.

Midwest Catalyst Culture Camp
East Coast Catalyst Culture Camp

This year, I was lucky enough to be chosen as camp counselor for both the Midwest and East Coast camps. Double the fun. Double the excitement. Double the amounts of lost sleep. All the while, it was very much worth every minute, because each Vietnamese adoptee I meet is a reminder of why I love doing what I do for ATG — providing ways to help raise funds for the orphans still in Vietnam so that they can hopefully one day have the same opportunities as the children I meet at Catalyst.

Day one of Minnesota camp is always a joy, as it gives the opportunity for many of the campers and parents to meet and get to know the counselors on a more one-to-one level. They also have their chance to dunk their favorite counselors during the Catalyst Carnival.

This year also reunited myself, Jack Nguyen and our incredible improv emcee skills for the counselor talent show. I was very impressed to see such an array of skills in acting, dancing, fiddle-playing and most impressively — song writing. Catalyst Culture Camp finally got its theme song, thanks to the counselors from Group 4 who re-wrote the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “California Girls” for culture camp. To see/hear a real treat, visit the Catalyst Foundation Fan Page.

The addition of Circle Painting and Vovinam also brought different cultural learning lessons to camp. The kids learned how to build onto each other’s creativity with painting, as well as the great art of martial arts and self-defense with Vovinam.

With more activities that filled the day than I could imagine, the best of all of them was getting to bond with the kids. Each one with their own story, their own history, their own personalities and ability to adapt. Every year I return, I grow more impressed and attached, not only with the kids, but the parents who have given a piece of themselves to share their lives and love. To the parents and kids, I thank you again for another great summer.

To see more of Aivy’s camp adventures, be sure to visit our ATG Fan Page and check out our photo albums!

2009 Catalyst Foundation Culture Camp

Hello, ATG Community!

This is Aivy Nguyen, your Marketing/PR Director for ATG, popping in to re-cap my fantastic experience working with Catalyst Foundation as a first-time camp counselor!

I had an amazing time a few weeks ago in New Jersey at the Catalyst Culture Camp, where I was not only a first-time camp counselor, but I also had the opportunity to present a sneak peek of Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam and talk about ATG during a parent session workshop. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Catalyst is a non-profit that focuses on improving the lives of orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children in Vietnam. They have two camps a year, one in Minnesota and one on the east Coast, to promote Vietnamese culture to families that have adopted children from Vietnam and to allow those families to meet and bond with one another.

After the 12-hour trek in a van filled with other counselors from the Mid-west, we descended upon Rowan University in the morning, just in time to help set-up camp for the weekend. Time quickly passed and as the evening drew near, so did the the families. You could feel the energy and excitement begin to build all around the room as each family checked-in, and I eagerly awaited for the evening to begin. It definitely took me a few moments to adjust to seeing so many multi-racial familes, but very refreshing nonetheless. For the first first session of the evening, I had the wonderful privilege to work alongside Hanna Nguyen and Kristina Doan and teach traditional Vietnamese hat and ribbon dance. It was a wonderful opportunity  to get to interact with the kids and parents and to find out that so much grace and elegance exists among some of our male counselors!

Later that  evening, all 60 counselors put on a Culture Camp Counselor Talent Show in which our creative skills were put to the test and we all had to perform impromptu acts. It was very entertaining to say the least. From Vietnamese story-telling, human pyramids, Michael Jackson impersonating, to a parody of Vietnamese hat and ribbon dancing to the Mulan soundtrack–it was quite the spectacle.

But no worries, the campers got to show-off their talents and knowledge of the Vietnamese culture as well.

The time in New Jersey at the Catalyst Culture Camp was absolutely amazing. It was a great experience and a bit surreal, all at the same time. In the past, the kids we worked with in Vietnam were pre-adoption who were fully immersed in the Vietnamese culture and definitely knew more about it than I did. This time around, the kids were around the same age but they were exactly opposite. They were still the same happy kids, but one set didn’t know the language and had just completely different mindsets.The Familes and Counselors for Culture Camp 2009 (New Jersey)

The Familes and Counselors for Culture Camp 2009 (New Jersey)

I thoroughly enjoyed the three energy-fused days of meeting the families, craft-making, dancing, talent shows and many rounds of piggy back rides. In a span of only three days, I developed bonds with not only my fellow counselors, but with the kids as well. There was a definite void and slight feeling of emptiness as we loaded the van and pulled out of Rowan University campus. It was a great experience, and one I will never forget. I will definitely be back again next year!

Looking forward to see everyone back in Dallas for the Dallas premiere of Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam and our 2nd Annual Cocktails for a Cause fundraiser!!!

Best,

Aivy Nguyen