REFUGENE and UNAVSA are partnering to inspire the overseas Vietnamese community to record their families’ personal stories. Our stories—our history—told by us. We will feature select submissions on the REFUGENE blog and in a beautiful, hardcover book to honor and preserve our heritage.

We need your help gathering these stories. 

Our goal: Publish fifty stories. Due to delays caused by COVID-19, we will distribute the first production of books in early 2021. All proceeds from pre-order sales will support the UNAVSA non-profit organization.

Rendering of The Family Stories Project book


The Family Stories Project is meant to be a catalyst for starting meaningful conversations between generations.

Knowing our family history connects us to who we are and where we come from. But, many of our families' stories remain untold leaving gaps in our identity and heritage. What's worse? Vietnamese refugees are getting older and the opportunity to have that exchange is closing.

Both generations—young and old—know the importance of preserving our families' stories, but neither know how or when to start these discussions.

This book project exists to initiate conversations. By sharing our experiences with each other, this book can help bridge generational gaps and be a historical resource that shares our families’ wisdom for generations.


  1. Record stories told by your elders.
  2. Photograph your storyteller.
  3. Submit your recording and photograph.

UNAVSA and REFUGENE will prepare submitted stories to be published, which includes transcribing, translating, and editing stories to best fit the format of the book. Almost all of the text will be taken directly from the audio transcriptions.

We promise to honor the stories shared with us. No stories will be published without final approval from the storyteller acknowledging that our revisions are accurate representations of their stories. Storytellers and interviewers will be credited in the book and online.

See below to learn about more ways to get involved. 


This is a huge project and we would appreciate volunteers to help us make it happen. In addition to recording stories and photographing storytellers, we need volunteers for the following tasks:

  • Transcribe audio recordings
  • Translate Vietnamese into English

For each assignment completed, volunteers will be acknowledged in the book and online.


To get started, we put together a story kit that includes:
  • 62 conversation starters (English and Vietnamese)
  • 5 maps
  • Audio recording app recommendations
  • Tips on taking a portrait of storytellers
    • Instructions for submitting audio recording to our collection
    • Story and photo waiver form

    Read stories. Questions? Email and


    Follow the Facebook event page for our latest updates. 


    • What if my parents don't speak English well?
      • Our story kit includes 62 conversation starters available in both English and Vietnamese to help facilitate the interview. Storytellers can record an interview speaking in Vietnamese or, if they prefer, they can write/type their stories in Vietnamese. Our team of volunteers can translate recorded audio and/or written stories to be edited for the book.
    • How do I begin this conversation with my elders?
      • First and foremost, be open and honest about why you are interested in hearing their stories. We often open conversations by saying, "I'd like to know about the story of your life. I think our family history is important to know and to pass onto the next generation. I'd like to know things like 'What it was like growing up in Vietnam?' and 'What how did you first earn a living in America?' and 'What do you hope future generations know about Vietnamese culture?' Would you be interested in tell me these stories?" Download the launch pack for more tips on how to get started.
    • What if my parents don't want to talk about traumatic experiences?
      • If you or the storyteller do not feel comfortable talking about painful experiences, please find a different story to explore. With that said, we have been surprised at the range of stories our elders have been willing to talk about. As an interviewer, be willing to ask about uncomfortable topics—do not censor your curiosity. Instead, allow the storyteller the opportunity to tell their story or to refuse to speak on that topic. 
    • How will stories be edited by REFUGENE and UNAVSA?
      • We will edit transcriptions to make stories easier to follow, and to fit the format of the book. Our highest priority is to maintain the meaning intended by the storyteller. Almost all of the text will be taken directly from transcriptions. We have found that storytellers often jump between topics and/or timelines, and our editors will work to consolidate common themes and reorder events chronologically. Storytellers will always be asked to review and approve our final revision to ensure it is an accurate representation of their stories.
    • My parents/relatives are worried about publicly sharing their stories, can stories be submitted anonymously?
      • We understand the reservation to publicly share stories, and respect every storyteller's desire for privacy. To that end, we will maintain complete or partial anonymity for storytellers when indicated. What does that look like? We can omit the storyteller's last name or full name from their story. Additionally, the portrait can be substituted with an image other than their face (for example their hands, a keepsake, a letter, etc.). We ask that storytellers submit a signed waiver form with their full name and signature for legal purposes, but the photo/story waiver will be for internal use only. If the storyteller indicates they would like to remain fully or partially anonymous, we will certainly oblige their wishes.

    We will continue adding FAQs to this list. Have a question? Email and


    The Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan, community-based organization. UNAVSA is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of leaders who will serve as stewards of the Vietnamese community.

    Officially formed in 2004, student leaders from Southern California and New England recognized an unmet need within the Vietnamese youth community focused on the development of the next generation of leaders. From this collaboration, UNAVSA was created to develop and organize a large, supportive network throughout the United States and Canada. The first conference was held in Boston, Massachusetts in 2004, where over 200 young activists from across the country and from different community-based organizations came together to develop the foundation for what UNAVSA has accomplished to date. With the first election of eleven regional representatives and five executive officers, the delegates outlined the structure that has evolved into the Council of Regional Representatives, the Executive Board, and the President’s Council.

    Follow UNAVSA on Instagram.


    About REFUGENE

    The REFUGENE project is a two-part project that shares stories told by refugee diasporas and a clothing brand designed to spark conversations about refugee backgrounds. We hope to inspire people to share their stories, because our stories are our heritage.

    What does 'REFUGENE' mean? REFUGENE is the extraordinary resilience in refugees—the trait we hope to pass from generation to generation. It is in our DNA, either dominant or recessive, and therein lies our mission: Find it in yourself, look for it in others, and live by it for life.

    Follow REFUGENE on Instagram.