VAYLA emerged to combat systemic and environmental racism in New Orleans East during the post-Katrina reconstruction period. Through the efforts of young Vietnamese leaders organizing to stop the toxic dumping of Hurricane Katrina construction debris. The landfill was located less than a mile away from the heart of Village de l’Est. Young leaders of this historically low socio-economic status Vietnamese refugee community worked with fellow community members to build a platform on which to voice concerns around the Chef Menteur C&D Disposal Site. This campaign demonstrated the power of cross cultural and inter-generational collaboration in creating a community voice to address the needs of local communities. It was this campaign that empowered us to tell our own stories, in our own words, in order to effect change in our own communities.
VAYLA’s commitment to youth development, community empowerment through education and cultural awareness forges a sacred space for young leaders to engage and empower each other through complex cultural exchange, community dialogue, and comprehensive civic engagement.