Could a weekend at a leadership camp have such a great impact in your life that it inspires and provides you with a new life perspective? It has been weeks since Lên Đường Camp (LDC), and many stories from parents, students and staff members have been pouring in about how their camp experiences have changed them for the better. One camper stated that after attending LDC, she had a new appreciation of her heritage and had a better understanding of the hardships endured by her parents when they fled Vietnam to rebuilt their life in Canada.

LDC was established in 1998, by the Vietnamese Cultural and Science Association (VCSA), Houston Chapter. During the Canada Day weekend, June 28 – July 1, 2013, 170 campers and 60 staff members travelled from across North America to attend the 16th Annual Leadership Development Camp, also known as Lên Đường Camp (Lên Đường). The translation of Lên Đường is to “Embark on a Journey.”
Throughout the four days, campers participated in a plethora of professional development workshops, cultural seminars, youth forums and leadership activities. Workshop and seminar topics ranged from Diversity Training, Communication with Styles, Adaptive Leadership, Goal Setting, Career Aspirations, My Community, Challenges in the Work Place, Generation Gaps/Cultural Identity, Vietnamese Cultural Preservation, to Civic Engagement. Campers also had an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership skills through group projects and team-building activities. Each camper was placed in one of the twelve teams, named after famous Vietnamese heroes or heroines, and the teams were awarded points for completing various tasks. One of the assignments required pairing two teams to create a business where they could resolve existing issues faced by North American Vietnamese. These ideas were then presented for a funding request to “the Dragons,” consising of a panel of entrepreneurs. There were many innovative solutions presented, and there are now discussions about implementing some of them.
[quote_box_center]During the orientation session, all participants were introduced to the G.R.A.C.E. values. They were asked to demonstrate them during the activities, and were encouraged to create a leadership action plan to implement them in their daily lives. The five core G.R.A.C.E. values are GRATITUDE, RESPECT, [/quote_box_center]ACCOUNTABILITY, COURAGE and ENGAGEMENT. We interviewed some participants to ask them about their experiences at LDC and how they have implemented the G.R.A.C.E. values in their daily lives after the camp.
“After I returned from LDC, I became an officer in a youth group called Lên Đường, Bonfire Passion. Being an officer has forced me to step out of my comfort zone and grow as a person. I’ve learned through tasks and events that by being a leader, I am accountable for everyone’s actions and jobs. However, this does not give me permission to be a dictator. Good leaders do not only lead, they must also listen. Thus, I learned to be much more open minded regarding new ideas and respecting everyone’s opinion. Above all, I will not forget where I came from, and that I must be thankful each and every day for the opportunities to grow.” BaoMa Tran, Camper from Houston, Texas, USA
[quote_box_center]“I have applied G.R.A.C.E, values in my life through my community involvement. I owe a lot to my family, and my community for building me into who I am., I volunteer and give back to the community by showing my gratitude, as well as accountability. Through this, I earn and give respect to the people I work with, while engaging them. Lastly, I’ve learned to take on bigger, more involved projects as I’ve taken on more leadership roles. This takes a lot of courage!” Nam-An Hoang Dinh, Camper from Toronto, Canada.[/quote_box_center]

“At LDC, I learned how to set goals and create a plan to achieve them on schedule. I also learned about the Vietnamese scholar Le Quy Don, who my team was named after in Lên Đường Camp. Upon my return from LDC, I provided gifts of appreciation or handwritten notes to people who have helped me in the past couple of years. I showed respect when I attended meetings for any volunteer activities. I am more patient listening to others when they talk and give them my full attention. When I respond, I make sure that what I say is relevant to what they discussed so that they know I listened to them. One of the goals I had set for myself at LDC is to be fluent in Vietnamese in five years. One of the things I practice is to learn something related to the Vietnamese language at least three days a week for an hour each day.” Nam Nguyen, Camper from Houston, USA.
When closely examining the G.R.A.C.E. values, many are similar to those taught by our parents and engrained into us as Vietnamese individuals. Prior to LDC, many campers struggled with balancing North American and Vietnamese values. However, through the workshops and forums, they discovered that it is important to adapt to the North American life-style, but it is equally important to preserve their heritage. Many individuals were inspired and pledged to implement the G.R.A.C.E values and what they learned in their daily lives, and their professional and philanthropic careers.