Old Dominion University’s newest Asian organization isn’t really new. But their latest fundraising project is. Maybe can spruce it up with a description of the lanterns in the sky?
The Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) hosted the inaugural Sky Lantern Festival on March 27, in support of One Body Village (OBV), a non-profit organization devoted to preventing child sex-trafficking in Cambodia and Vietnam.
The VSA’s sky lantern festival is a new twist on an old, unifying act across many Asian cultures that traditionally celebrate the New Year, and sometimes commemorate death. Sky lanterns were released at ODU to usher in spring and raise awareness and funds for OBV.
Despite a day of chilling high winds, the festival saw an impressive turnout of students, alumni and community members. Attendees gathered on Kaufman Mall to set fire to the sky with white paper lanterns, purchased from the VSA for $2 apiece. The proceeds will join a collective pot for OBV from other VSA’s across the state and coast.
The OBV website defines their mission as a goal “to combat human sex trafficking in developing countries, especially in Vietnam and Cambodia, and to provide at risk children and survivors with shelter, medical and behavioral health care, educational assistance and vocational training to improve their future.”
External vice president, Vuong Nguyen said, “This year the [philanthropy] is One Body Village, and that organization helps combat sex trafficking in Vietnam and Cambodia. They go over there and they, like, find these brothels. They have undercover agents and they interview the girls… One Body Village opens shelters and they rescue the kids.”
Vuong Nguyen also recognized the help that OBV provides for male victims, about 20 percent of the total sex-trafficking population.
“Young boys are a big victim and people neglect them because, like, people think sex trafficking is girls a lot, but it’s a lot of young boys as well… They’re [OBV] asking the VSA’s from all the around the regions and the country for help.”
Filipino VSA member, Jedidah Ferrer said, “It’s a very important cause because human trafficking is basically one of the oldest crimes and it’s something that isn’t easily stopped, basically. For example, we can solve things like hunger and homelessness more easily than we would be able to do things that are a little bit more interwoven like human trafficking. It’s really disgusting, but it’s got to be stopped.”
The VSA is not a new organization ODU’s campus. Having an active chapter in the 90s, and then again in 2006 before fizzling out, the current organization was founded by a group of friends who love the complexities of their culture.
“Our generation, we realize that we’re all Vietnamese at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter, you know, your political stand point,” the internal vice president, Kevin Nguyen, said.
“We were just like, ‘Hey, you know what, we’re all Vietnamese… Let’s start this organization, let’s get a lot of people involved and make sure that everybody knows a little bit about the culture, but most importantly have a good time.’”
“This is their first of hopefully many lantern nights here at ODU. It’s pretty exciting,” Ferrer said.
By Adrienne Mayfield