Lucky To Have You


Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in Omaha dreaming about when we first arrived.
When we had more time than now.
I’ve forgotten how it felt before the schedule fell at our feet.

Our 3rd week in Omaha has officially passed by and believe that no one of us feels much excited about the coming activities as the first day we arrived. We are running out of time. We have started missing Omaha…

My dear family in USA.

If I had to describe this week by only one word, it would be “lucky”. Lucky because I again had great opportunities to upgrade myself with knowledge of conflict management, leadership and social entrepreneurship. Lucky because I has been made an honorary citizen of the City of Omaha. And last but not least, lucky because I was at Yates and learnt about how lucky they were to have immigrants and refugees as their family members.

Located in the midtown area of the city, Yates School provides immigrants and refugees with necessary skills that will help them be successful in the Omaha community. “Many refugees came with shock even though they already had orientation before coming to USA”, Susan Mayberger – ESL Coordinator shared with us. By offering different essential classes such as ESL, sewing and four early childhood, Yates School is obviously a platform for the refugees to start up their lives in America.

What made me feel most impressed was a statement happened to catch our eyes right after our very first step through the main gate: “Lucky to have you at YATES.”. These 6 words themselves spoke everything about the beauty of love between people and people. No matter who you are, where you come from or what story you are holding back, there are always kind hearts and helping hands around if you are in need. Moreover, the immigrants and refugees also strengthen Omaha by strong skill sets, cultural identity and ethnic pride, religious beliefs and support. “They are legal to live here and Omaha needs them” was one of our statements when wrapping up Yates’ presentation. We were all indeed inspired by their great work of building a strong community.


(Luong – Pham Thi Phuong Luong)


“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

Americans say “Time flies when we are having fun”, I do agree with it. Another week has gone and I can’t believe that we only have 3 more weeks in USA. The study tour to Western Nebraska this week was such an eye-opening experience for me especially on how people encourage others to live better lives.

Our first destination was Community Action Partnership Western Nebraska – Youth Center that offers innovative programming ranging from prevention to intervention and aftercare based in a trauma informed philosophy. From the very first step into the center, I was strongly impressed by every single quote on the walls like “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” or “You can’t live a positive life with negative thoughts.”. My great impression was continually made by a lot more positive words shown at Northfield Elementary School and Gering High School such as “It is impossible to live without falling at something.” or “Be a buddy, not a bully!”.


Looking back, I asked myself whether there was a hidden meaning behind these words or they just spoke what they were supposed to do. Undoubtedly, they were indeed much more than that. They told me about how great encouragement was to give others support, confidence and hope. Thinking about civic engagement and community development, I found it strongly important to encourage community members by positive words. No matter what happens, no problem is too big, and hope is always there. Thus, why don’t we start today by a smile, hopeful conversation or motivating words to each other? Encouraging to make positive changes, together solve our own issues, fully reach our potentials and live healthier lives. Why not?

(Luong – Pham Thi Phuong Luong)


Who Am I Serving?

It’s been 1 week since I first touched down Omaha for my Academic Fellowship on Civic Engagement at UNO and I sincerely fell in love with this city at first sight. Omaha got me not only by how beautiful and peaceful it is but also by how friendly and warm-hearted its people have shown towards us. One fully-packed week with many first-hand experiences, looking back, I was indeed so blessed to meet and learn from the non-profit organization (NPO) leaders who strongly inspired me to keep hoping and believing in what I am currently doing in my country.

I fell in love with Omaha at first sight.

Traveling from Vietnam to USA, I brought along my passion about mental health, counseling as well as the way my organization chooses to heal people by talking. Since mental health topics are still not openly discussed in Vietnam, along with the unpopularity of counseling, it has been challenging for us to reach out and touch those who seek help. Working for a young organization as a multitasking staff, over the past few years, I many times felt exhausted, lost motivation and wanted to give up; many times I asked myself whether it was my passion or I just worked hard to survive. The discussion with NPO leaders undoubtedly enlightened me, literally also by questions: “Who am I SERVING?”, “If it’s not you, WHO?”, “If it’s not now, WHEN?”.

Definitely I am serving those who struggle with mental health problems or simply just need a listening ear to express their feelings. Surely it’s me who are a people person and have a strong desire to healing, connecting and inspiring others. Finally, I strongly believe that life is a journey and there are always bound to be road bumps. If today someone has to live with his pain, my organization and I are there to offer help. It is “now”, and always.

Thank you YSEALI for this amazing learning trip that helped me get more motivation and inspiration to continue contributing to my NPO work in Vietnam. Nobody says it is easy, but I can always keep in mind these questions to keep moving forward.

Sharing: Leadership in Non-Profits Panel with leaders from Mosaic International, Project Harmony, and College Possible.

(Luong – Pham Thi Phuong Luong)