Father Vien Nguyen, a Catholic priest and progressive social activist in the Vietnamese community of New Orleans recently received the Community Champion Award from the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO). Father Vien is prominently featured in the Independent Lens documentary A Village Called Versailles , airing next Tuesday, May 25th on PBS (check local listings). AAPCHO Membership Relations Associate Grace-Sonia Melanio gives us a recap of the awards ceremony.
As a health advocate, the documentary reminds me that the definition of healthy communities reaches beyond the ability to see a doctor for your annual check up (although that is very important too). Father Vien and the community members of Versailles recognized that environmental health is intrinsic to personal health. A Village Called Versailles also illustrated the important point that healthy communities are empowered communities.
Empowered communities are not only driven by a sense of self-preservation, but also by the principles of compassion and respect, where the voices of both the young and elderly are equally valued. At the awards ceremony, Father Vien graciously accepted AAPCHO’s Community Champion Award presented by Congressman Joseph Cao. He was quick to highlight the hard work and advocacy of his fellow community members. I continue to be inspired by Father Vien and the Vietnamese American community of New Orleans East. It’s my hope that many others will learn about this remarkable story, and also draw inspiration from the film, just as I have.
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