Cyndi Nguyen is a mother of six, including triplets. She also spearheads the efforts at Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training (VIET) in New Orleans, La. VIET works to develop education and economic training programs and serves as a resource center, while breaking down barriers between Vietnamese residents and English speaking citizens.
Because VIET serves a large number of children, but did not have a playground, Cyndi got busy with efforts to raise the necessary funds, recruit volunteers and secure thousands of dollars in additional in-kind donations to facilitate a KaBOOM! community playground build.
Initially, several homeowners associations were against the project having been let down in the past by government and organizations that never kept promises. This was a group of parents and families who were so disappointed by past inaction that they even objected to having a playground built in their neighborhood. Despite the odds, Cyndi won the associations over and on April 16, 2011, hundreds of volunteers from the community and Let’s Play from Dr Pepper Snapple Group, who provided most of the funding, built a brand new playground at the VIET Center.
But Cyndi’s efforts to improve her community didn’t end there.
In less than a year, Cyndi used the KaBOOM! website and its detailed ideas and instructions for side projects like planter benches and murals to facilitate several enhancements to make the site even more accessible by all in the community.
“The KaBOOM! experience allowed me to see things that are not there, but are really there. Take a bench – you don’t have to go to Home Depot or Walmart in order to sit on one. Now, I’m actually building benches everywhere on our eight acres. Now everything is about building. As a woman, it gave me the power of saying, ‘We can do more. It’s not a guy thing. This is a community thing,” Cyndi recently told KaBOOM! staff.
Cyndi’s efforts to improve the area still aren’t complete – she’s currently working on fundraising for fitness equipment for seniors, attempting to bring Head Start to the site and installing tennis courts. Cyndi is also part of the KaBOOM! Alumni Network where she is mentoring others, helping them build great playspaces for their communities.