Mylinh Luong and her family fled their home country after the Vietnam war, arriving after a terrifying escape in the U.S. as a child in the 1980s. Today her experience with the Orchid Giving Circle at the Texas Women’s Foundation has been a full-circle moment. Through the philanthropic work of the group, the Luong was able to give back to Catholic Charities Fort Worth, which helps refugees in places like Afghanistan and Burma.
“I get very emotional about it,” Luong says. “We want to give where we live, and because I once was that little girl who benefitted from the kindness of others, [working with Orchid] resonated a lot for me.”
The Texas Women’s Foundation’s Giving Circles allow women to find a community based on culture and interest while supporting local organizations making a difference in the community.
The Texas Women’s Foundation is for women by women, and its goals include helping advance economic security and leadership for girls of all ages through research, grants, and more. One way to get involved is through one of the three Giving Circles TWF supports. Each Giving Circle raises money and grants various Dallas organizations that apply and meet their giving criteria.
The Orchid Giving Circle at TWF aims to provide support, resources, and advocacy for Dallas women who identify as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Less than 1 percent of philanthropic dollars are invested in Asian American communities, and Asian Americans have been underrepresented as funders and grant recipients. TWF groups focus on Hispanic and Black philanthropy. Each group allows members to change lives inside and outside the circle.
“It started with a conversation and asking where the Asian women leaders in the community are, and what can we do?” says Luong, one of the group’s founders and currently serves as chair.
The group kicked off in 2015 and started to campaign, focusing on North Texas. Luong says that the group welcomes members who can contribute in several ways. “You can give your time, treasure, or talent,” she says. The group has grown since it was founded with 12 members and now has 76 members. It has awarded over $1 million in grant money to over 29 organizations in the region.
One of the expectations of members is either raising $2,500 a year or writing a check, which has helped many North Texas Asian-led businesses reach their project goals. The Orchid Giving Circle caps donations to individual organizations at $15,000, and the amount depends on the strength of the program and the extensive evaluation process.
Mosaic Family Services has been a recipient of the Orchid Circle’s generosity. Walter Nguyen, Executive Director of Mosaic and Founder, is a former refugee from Vietnam. One of Mosaic’s aims is to work with young people, primarily immigrants and refugees from Southeast Asia. They target issues like drug prevention, provide counseling, and have a family violence outreach branch.
“There’s a lot of domestic violence within the immigrant and refugee communities, especially within the aging population. The problem is in their own culture, and they don’t report crimes or ask for help,” says Nguyen. “This is not acceptable.”
Mosaic educates the Dallas community about domestic violence and provides services and resources that victims can utilize. The organization also serves human trafficking survivors. The circle seemed like a good fit. “The Giving Circle announced the availability of funding, and we applied because over 1/3 of our staff were of Asian descent,” Nguyen says. The grants have been able to supplement Mosaic’s programs like the refugee service since most of the funding comes from government grants that aren’t sufficient for all of Mosaic’s services.
Nguyen has impactful plans for the funds. “We would put it towards sustaining the case manager position. We call it a multicultural crime victim service and would continue to do outreach and case management for the Asian population and newer refugee arrivals. These refugees experience new poverties, need more help, and don’t always speak English, so they need somebody who can speak their language, understand the culture, and provide a bridge.”
Orchid’s communications chair and secretary Radhika Zaveri says that being able to give back to her Dallas community has impacted her life significantly. “You don’t need to wait to give; just having the belief of the importance of philanthropy and giving is fulfilling.”
Zaveri, who founded a brand consulting company, has been with Orchid for seven years and is one of the founding members. She appreciates the sisterhood that has been created within Orchid. “We are an extension of the family, and our mission is about giving back to the community and not ourselves. This isn’t a networking opportunity but collectively giving back to various groups like the health sector, education, or the arts. Our focus is very much outward.”
Zaveri says that giving has personal benefits as well. “I can see the impact on a much more personal level. It gives me a more personal contribution to see the impact on a human level. We are involved with these organizations and have developed a long-term relationship over the years.”
As an adjunct marketing professor at SMU, Zaveri has been able to bring the experience and insight gained from working with Orchid into the classroom, informing her students of topics ranging from philanthropy to non-profits which she believes helps impact the minds of future leaders. “It’s not about what I get to do or personal gratification, but about the mission and putting that first.”