We recently contacted our liaison with the Tammy Dang community to talk about how the pandemic has affected the Vietnamese community and the ways in which it is using technology to continue to unite its community.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your work as a liaison community with the Department of Neighborhoods?
I have been with Seattle since 2005 and have been a community liaison officer for more than five years. As a community link, I am a bridge between the government system and community members. I share information with the community, hold seminars, facilitate meetings, and help the community understand information from the city or county. This is especially important for projects that directly affect community members. I help them share their worries and desires so that their voices can be heard, which can be difficult for many people due to the language barrier. I use my bilingual Vietnamese skills to help them, and I also do translation and interpretation.
How did you see the impact of the pandemic on the Vietnamese community?
The pandemic has had a major impact on the Vietnamese community because most of them work closely together and do not understand technology. When the quarantine came, it was a big challenge for them. But fortunately we have strong support from the community. We connected by phone and moved on to virtual meetings. This helps to keep in touch with each other, to encourage each other and to take care of the other’s mental health. But those first months were challenging because many people were unfamiliar with how to use virtual meeting platforms. I remember taking one person 45 minutes just to help him make an appointment, not a video or Zoom, just call. Even small steps like adding a PIN can be confusing because it is unknown. One thing I admire about this man and everyone I’ve worked with is their patience. It took them a while to feel good about technology, but they never give up and are always ready to learn something new. They move with the flow and once they understand it, they will be there every week, easily and will 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 writing. In the past, it was nice to see each other in person and listen to each other’s voices. So I would do my best to mix it up with a video to say hello and remind them of the COVID protocols or to join a meeting. I was nicknamed Tammy Radio! When I sent a message, they said, “Oh, let’s go, Tammy Radio is on!”
At the beginning of the pandemic, you launched an online group to help share information. Can you tell me a little bit about this group and how it helped keep your community connected?
Back in April 2020, when COVID hit our area and quarantine began to happen, I had the idea to create a virtual meeting room. I created a video on how to join and sent it to people to help just get them in the room. We started each week with the intention of sharing information related to COVID, with space for people to share their struggles with the community so they can help each other support each other, and just provide an opportunity for a human connection that can go beyond the meeting as well.
Then, the last part of an hour and a half, they sing. I realized that entertainment and music are things that can bring joy to people and connect them to each other even during quarantine. I am the presenter and I helped them coordinate and find out who would like to sing each song and I arranged the order. They sing Vietnamese songs, English songs, country music and modern music. All kinds of songs, they just love to sing! I also started making a poster to promote the meeting every week and I will introduce different people. They felt like celebrities! One person told me, “I always dream of being on this poster one day 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 love to encourage them, to join, participate in and support other members.
How do you think we can continue to use technology to help people stay connected to each other and their language and heritage?
We are happy that although we can resume face-to-face meetings, it is good to have cyberspace as an option. They are convenient and add more events and opportunities to connect with the community. They like to have more activities and engagement and already have technology in place. It also works well for people to attend government meetings or forums, so they don’t have to invent logistics to get there. This is a convenient way to participate. I just send them a reminder of the day and time of the meeting and they show up.
Our group still gathers for two virtual meeting groups a week; one is for information and fun through singing, and the other is for information and prayer. It doesn’t matter your religion, we have Buddhists and Christians and we just get together to share the burden or our struggle, or someone we know who needs prayer, and we get together and pray. This has been the case every week since the pandemic. I have people from four different states calling in turn. I like doing these things because I see the difference it makes just being there for community members of all ages. I have a group of elderly people, a group of parents with children with disabilities and middle-aged people. Everyone joins. Honestly, some of them don’t even know who I am because they’ve just been recommended by a friend. I love doing this.