Culture to Strengthen Economy: an Interview with the Belgian Vietnamese Alliance

Our Cultures United Festival is only 10 days away and our series on participating communities goes on; today it is time to meet the local Vietnamese community!

A couple of weeks ago we interviewed Ms. Diep Nguyen Bich, Head of Social Affairs and Mr. My Huynh Cong who is the founder and current Secretary General of Belgian Vietnamese Alliance – BVA, a relatively young organisation created in 2011. Yet, the BVA has a very clear mission: promoting and encouraging the links between Belgium and Vietnam in different domains.

It all started from a simple observation: not many people (back in 2011) here in Belgium knew about Vietnam and sometimes confused it with Thailand. At the same time, it was also true that many Vietnamese tended to make no difference between France and Belgium”, said Mr. My. This is why they decided to create the BVA to develop and strengthen the relationship between our two countries.

To support their goal, a three-pillar strategy concentrating on three main areas was initiated: culture, economy and social activities, all interlinked and necessary to one another.

The cultural pillar is indeed very attractive and extremely useful when promoting Vietnam, for Vietnamese culture is extremely rich and diverse as Ms Diep Nguyen Bich told us.

She is the Head of Social Affairs and as such, she is in charge of teaching Vietnamese language to those who are interested. Her class is quite diverse too, as you can find second generations and mixed Vietnamese (those born in Belgium from Vietnamese parents) who want to cultivate their parents’ language, adoptees from Vietnam whose parents want them to keep a link with their home county but also Belgian people interested in Vietnam and its culture at large.

The importance of teaching Vietnamese to those interested is a crucial aspect for BVA: Vietnam is a very mixed country with different ethnicities and many religions and the language is what keeps them together. It is their strongest instrument of belonging.
Apart from language courses, BVA organises different activities mainly based on Vietnamese festivities and their celebrations (like the beginning of the Lunar year).

For the economic pillar, BVA aims at providing support and technical advice to Belgians who are willing to invest in Vietnam and to Vietnamese who want to venture into the Belgian market. Recently, they have also outlined the pros and cons of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that the EU is currently signing with Vietnam, from an entrepreneurial and SME point of view.

As for the social activities pillar, the BVA has shown much support to the Vietnamese community in all Belgium and in Vietnam too: in 2013 they have organised a Gala Night where 22.000 Euros were raised in one single night to finance an educational project in Vietnam. It was a great success and BVA is planning to repeat it next year too, being part of the Vietnamese Week.

Everyone is represented in the BVA, for you can find students around their 20’s, business people as well as retired politicians, giving the Alliance a stable and prosper balance. At the same time, BVA represents a single and united voice for the Vietnamese community in Belgium trying to establish a synergy with political and civic society levels.

Mr My is a real New European; he arrived in Europe in 1967, studied in Belgium, he lived and worked almost 20 years in Rome and 8 years in Amsterdam (both working for the United Nations) and his wife is Belgian.

Come join us the 5th and 6th of June at the Esplanade for our Cultures United Festival where BVA will showcase the unique and ancient traditions of Vietnam.

To be always up-to-date with BVA’s activities and courses, please visit their website.


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