In Search of My Mother’s Garden

During the spring semester of my junior year, I took four different Women’s & Gender Studies classes and all four placed a heavy focus on feminist literature and theory. Although I enjoyed reading feminist literature and learning new skills and language to formulate my own feminist thought, I could not help but wonder about the practical aspect of these theories, and more importantly, how will my “butt get jobs?” Over the past summer, I had the opportunity to intern for Children of Vietnam (COV), a non-profit organization that is working to lift single Vietnamese mothers and their children out of poverty through economic support and social empowerment. This was also a chance to visit my home country after twelve years of living in the United States. As an intern, I worked closely with two COV staff members to capture the living conditions of 80 womyn and their children and to create case reports of their needs and aspirations. Using these reports, COV and Women’s Union, a governmental womyn’s organization, will work to create comprehensive plans to provide healthcare, scholarships, and economic support to improve the lives of these womyn and their children. Although I met each individually, I realized that none of them had met each other. As single mothers, they often spent their time working tirelessly to provide support for their family. So as a final project, I proposed an empowerment training. This training provided these womyn and their children with the resources to spend a day congregating and building a community. In reconnecting with my people and giving service back to my motherland, I found a group of forgotten, yet powerful, Vietnamese womyn. To them I attribute all my respect and admiration. In a small way, this experience reminds me of Alice Walker’s experience when she was trying to unearth and describe the historical contribution of African American womyn’s work to feminist theories. In searching for my Vietnamese mothers’ gardens, I found my own feminist identity and my future career goals. I want to continue to sharpen my feminist thought with our wonderful Women’s & Gender Studies department and work to improve the lives of womyn globally, especially Vietnamese womyn.