Tuesday, October 30, 2007


They've done it before; village destroyed...then saved:

The resilience of the Vietnamese-American community in New Orleans is a bright spot for a city still missing roughly one-third of the 455,000 residents who lived here before the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane.

An estimated 90 percent of the 25,000 Vietnamese-Americans who lived in southeastern Louisiana before Katrina had returned within two years of Katrina's onslaught, according to community leaders. They were among the first to start rebuilding their homes and reopening their businesses, and their community is recovering much more rapidly than some other parts of New Orleans.

Like many of her neighbors, Kinh Nguyen didn't wait for the government's help to repair her home, a modest, ranch-style house. She moved her family back in in March 2006, about 18 months before she received a federal housing grant.

To save money, she gutted the house and removed the mold herself, using directions she found on the Internet. Friends and relatives helped with some of the most grueling labor. Even the Catholic priests from her nearby church, Mary Queen of Vietnam, pitched in and helped her fix her kitchen.

"Hand in hand, we support each other," she said.

Adversity is nothing new to New Orleans' Vietnamese. Many families lost everything before they fled their homeland three decades ago.

"Katrina itself is almost like a bug bite for us," said Anh "Joseph" Cao, a lawyer who ran for state representative this year in a district that includes part of eastern New Orleans. "It's sort of bothersome. It itches. But it's not something we're terrified of."

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