VOICE informally began in 1997 in Manila as a small legal aid office (formerly the Representative Office of the Vietnamese Community in Australia) to help the 2,500 stateless Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines. Since then, VOICE, in collaboration with other NGOs and community groups, has helped to resettle over 2,500 individuals including Filipino spouses and children. VOICE formally registered as a 501(c)(3) organisation in California, USA in 2007.
VOICE strives to achieve our mission through community empowerment programs. We have full-time staff based in Manila, Philippines and abroad to advocate and give voice to our mission. We knock on doors of elected representatives and follow up on our program initiatives. In the field, our projects provide legal and social assistance to those who cannot speak for themselves.
Below is a summary of our journey so far:
2000 – 2002: Australian Special Humanitarian Program which enabled 230 refugees to reunite with their close relative(s) in Australia;
2004 – 2007: US Vietnamese Resettlement Project – Philippines (VRPP) which resulted in the resettlement of 1,573 individuals to the U.S.;
2005 – 2007: Residence Permits for Vietnamese Nationals in the Philippines with Close Relatives in Norway which saw the departure of 49 cases (188 individuals);
2005 – 2009: Canadian Public Policy for stateless Vietnamese in the Philippines enabled some 200 individuals including Filipino spouses and children to resettle in Canada with the support of community groups.
2007 – present: Continued advocacy for the remaining cases in the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia. Continued internship program for young Vietnamese from Vietnam and abroad.
At this time, VOICE is one of a few organisations spearheading advocacy efforts for the last remaining stateless Vietnamese in Southeast Asia from the ‘boat people’ exodus, following the fall of Saigon. Like a compass, our work and continuing advocacy efforts ensure that their ‘boats find a harbour.’
At the heart of our mission (and our name) is ‘Empowerment.’ VOICE is more than an aid organization. It is our goal to empower individuals so that they may have a voice.