One of my many ongoing projects, the Be the Change series highlights fascinating who people I meet during my travels. These are folks who are doing the hard work of changing the world for the better by living out their passions and sharing their gifts. Subjects are chosen by me with no committee or proposal process, so if you know of a person or project that you think is doing something that is making the world a more just, compassionate and peaceful place, please let me know.
A few years ago, can’t even remember where or when, I met Vy. What I do remember is that he was just starting a position working with Church World Service and I was impressed with his story and his energy. I recently bumped into Vy and asked him to share a bit about his work. Here is my interview with Vy Nguyen and the project that he runs, the 2012 Bay Area Hunger Walk.
Tell me a little about yourself . . . who is Vy Nguyen?
I’m just a regular guy who can cook a really amazing pork loin, loves the Dallas Cowboys only slightly less than I love God, and who always wanted to learn to play the accordion but only ever mastered the flute. But more important than that, I’ve seen hunger first hand, and I’m committed to doing anything in my power to end it. I was blessed to have elders at my church growing up who taught me what it means to stand up for justice and making it look cool while doing it, and the hard work and sacrifices that is required for this work. The seed they planted in me is a constant reminder to work to make a difference in this world, and to always be on the side of the most vulnerable within my community. I currently work with Church World Service where we are changing lives every day all over the world by fighting hunger, providing clean water and protecting vulnerable communities . . . and I feel blessed to be a part of this amazing work and to collaborate with amazing colleagues and volunteers all over the country.
Tell me a little about the Bay Area Hunger Walk and how did you get involved in it?
On April 28 & 29 there will be 11 communities in the Bay Area coming together in solidarity to fight hunger. From Alameda, Berkeley, East County (Pittsburg and Antioch), Fremont, Marin in San Rafael, San Francisco, Sonoma, South Bay & Peninsula in San Jose, Vallejo, Oakland, and Tri-Valley in Pleasanton — people of all faiths and no faith will come and walk together. CROP Hunger Walk is a community-wide event that has been going on for at least 40 years in the United States. It’s put together entirely by committed volunteers who care deeply about hunger.
When I was a little kid I participated in this walk annually with my friends and neighbors. It was a lot of fun and we raised a lot of money to help fight hunger in my hometown and abroad. Fast forward 20 years later, I’m now the assistant regional director for Church World Service, the national sponsor of CROP Hunger Walks across the country. There are more than 1,600 of these around the country each year but this is the first time we’ve brought these Bay Area communities together to fight hunger on the same weekend. We want to strengthen the Bay Area communities, create solidarity with all the communities to help fight hunger, and raise funds to make a difference in the Bay Area and aboard.
One of the strengths of these Walks across the country is that they’re in places big and small. And the money goes to help many homeless programs throughout the Bay Area (Youth hostels, food pantries and more), as well as to go overseas. We’re hoping the Bay Area communities participating will raise enough money to make a significant contribution in the fight against hunger, both here and around the world.
In 10 years, what do you hope people will be saying about the Bay Area Hunger Walk?
I hope this can become a day of community spirit around fighting hunger. I hope it’s something corporations, small businesses, families, singles . . . people of all stripes can rally around. All of us have a role to play in fighting hunger. It’s inexcusable that people go hungry. There is enough for all! That hunger still exists is just ridiculous, and I think that fighting hunger is a cause that resonates with a lot of people. I also hope that people will be more aware of the many hunger issues that exist within our own community, and that they can make a difference.
How can people get connected to and support the Bay Area Hunger Walk?
Log onto BayAreaHungerWalk.org and find the walk closest to you on either Saturday April 28 or Sunday April 29. You can get started online, asking your friends and family to donate/sponsor you on the web. Once you sign up, all you have to do is ask your friends to support you. Small amounts are OK, too! Then come out on the day of the walk and walk with your community. It’s that simple! And if you want to see how the money goes to fighting hunger, check out the work at cwsglobal.org.
Pay it forward a bit . . . what are 2-3 projects, companies or people who you think are doing some good work in the world these days?
CWS wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the partnerships we enjoy with like-minded individuals and groups such as Rachel Finn and Nina Pine of Faiths Act Fellows and The Oakland Peace Center.
And a quick video for your viewing pleasure: