Daughter of Vietnamese Immigrants Creates Program in Mongolia
June 4, 2012 – Weeks after crossing a stage to receive her diploma from Georgetown, Nhaca Le (SFS’12) traversed the globe to teach English in rural Mongolia as part of an initiative she established through Learning Enterprises.
Learning Enterprises is a Washington, D.C.-based student-run nonprofit for which Le has served as managing director since her junior year. The organization sends students all over the world to teach English and other skills.
Le recently won a Lena Landegger award for her community service contributions during her time at Georgetown.
“[Mongolia] is a country with such a rich history,” she says. “You learn about it in world history, but you never really learn about it in a modern-day sense, which was extremely fascinating to me.”
About 135 students will be volunteering this summer through Learning Enterprises in 12 countries, including Mongolia, Thailand, Panama, Mauritius and China.
Six of the volunteers will join Le in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, for six weeks as part of the pilot program she created for the nonprofit.
With China as its chief exporter, Mongolia's economy has traditionally relied on livestock and herding, but in recent years a healthy mining industry has emerged, according to State Department data.
“I’m also going to work on some connections there and try to expand the program so we can have more than six volunteers next year,” says Le, who was an international political economy major at Georgetown and hails from Seattle.
Daughter of Immigrants
Le says her focus on international development is rooted in the experience of being the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants.
“My parents grew up during the [Vietnam] war so they didn’t have a chance to go to college at all,” Le explains. “They emigrated to the U.S., and they already had kids so they never really had a chance for education.”
“I was very blessed in that regard that my parents always encouraged me and would sacrifice anything in order to send me to college …” she says.
They didn’t have to – Le received a full-scholarship to attend Georgetown.
The Georgetown alumna also participated in the university’s DC Schools Project as a tutor and established a new student group called Your Classroom Your World.
The group encourages students to become involved in international education.
“I feel like I’ve been educated as a whole person,” she says, referencing the university's Jesuit tradition. “We learn that our first couple of days here. Emotionally, academically and spiritually, I just feel like Georgetown has been nurturing a environment for me.”
After Le finishes her mission in Mongolia, she’ll head to Cambodia to work with World Relief, a Christian nonprofit serving vulnerable international communities. She’ll be working on a couple of microfinance and savings program initiatives.
It’s another step for Le, who hopes to one day run or lead a major international nonprofit organization focused on Asia and economic development.
“Working with startup nonprofits, you’re given instantly a ton of responsibilities because there’s just no manpower,” she says. “I hope to stay in Asia for the next five years to get a lot of development experience – to be on the ground, talk to the locals and to really see the needs.”