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Vietnamese Virginians Dive Head-first into We Can! Programming

February 4, 2009

Vietnamese immigrant and mother of two Tran Nguyen is tickled pink over a portion-measurement trick—using her fist to measure appropriate portion size. She learned it while taking four We Can!™ classes in Fairfax, Virginia.

“My favorite thing about We Can! is learning how to live a healthier life by making healthier food choices, especially learning how to read the food label and detect unhealthy ingredients,” said Mrs. Nguyen. “I also learned creative ways to turn family time into physical-activity time, instead of watching TV, using the computer, or playing video games.”

A group of middle-school students forms a "human pyramid"

Nguyen not only took these classes at the Holmes Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia. She helped translate the materials into Vietnamese.

None of this would have been possible without a We Can! training hosted by the Fairfax County Partners in Prevention Fund in September. A training attendee shared news of the science-based program by the National Institutes of Health with a volunteer from Boat People SOS, Inc. (BPSOS), a grantee of Fairfax County Partners in Prevention Fund.

Fairfax-based BPSOS—which has 14 offices across the nation and has a half-hour radio show that reaches its community across the globe—took the information and ran with it.

“We leapt at the chance to implement the program because we recognized We Can! as a way to fill an outstanding community need,” said Caitlin Burnett, Development Manager for BPSOS. “We had limited resources to help parents and their children gain the skills and information they needed to live healthy lives as a family.”

Increased physical activity is just one of several We Can! messages and curricula being used at Holmes Middle School. Members of the school’s Vietnamese Club recently showed off their healthy moves. There’s also a Media-Smart Youth program that draws some 15-20 kids, and is expected to run until the end of the school year.

Twelve-year-old Daniel has attended five sessions of Media-Smart Youth, and relishes not just the healthy fruit snacks.

“I really like working with a team to write scripts and then act it out,” said Daniel about the public service announcement that participants create as part of the curriculum.

Last but not least, parents can also get involved. So far, there have been two workshops and over 20 participants.

More is planned for 2009, with Dong Bui, coordinator of BPSOS’s Youth and Family Services, taking the lead at getting the word out at upcoming Vietnamese gatherings and festivals. Bui has already distributed We Can! materials and intends to do so again, including during the upcoming Lunar Celebration in February.

We Can! and the We Can! logo are trademarks of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

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