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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Cultural performances raise money at charity date auction

cultural dance_Daniel Tran

The Vietnamese Student Association held the 5th annual charity date auction, VEX: Vietnamese Extravaganza, to raise money for nonprofit organizations on Friday evening at the New University Center. | Courtesy of Daniel Tran

While many enjoyed romantic candlelight dinners with their significant others on Valentine’s night, several UH students attended the Vietnamese Student Association’s 5th annual charity date auction and talent show, “VEX: Vietnamese Extravaganza,” on Friday evening in the New University Center Ballroom.

VSA created VEX in an effort to raise money for One Body Village, a nonprofit organization to combat human sex trafficking in developing countries — mainly Vietnam and Cambodia — and provide at-risk children and survivors with shelter, medical and behavioral health care, educational assistance and vocational training to improve their future.

This year’s sponsors came from organizations including UH Asian Alumni Association, iHeart Flipbooks, Kim Son, NAM — Noodles and More, Shandon Law Firm and the Vietnamese Community of Houston and Vicinity.

“In addition to raising money for charity, we put on VEX to promote the Vietnamese culture,” said VSA Vice President Thu-Mai Nguyen.

“We do so by including a lion dance performance, an ao dai fashion show and cultural dance. We usually have about 10 different organizations on campus that auction off one of their members as well as perform a talent. We also had Wushu, FSA and our own VSA members performing.”

VEX director and Biology sophomore Vincent Tran decided to join forces for the first time with the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations Collective Philanthropy Project campaign in efforts to raise money and make a difference.

“Basically each year, participating VSAs and (Unions of Vietnamese Student Associations) all over the US and Canada raise money together for a certain nonprofit so we can make the biggest impact,” Tran said.

Hotel and restaurant management sophomore Tai Nguyen, who danced with his fraternity, Lambda Phi Epsilon, to “Unnecessary” by Childish Gambino, “Angels” by A$AP Rocky and “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, said he liked the exposure VEX brought to the Asian community.

“It was nice to collaborate with all the other Asian organizations and see that we have such a big Asian community,” Nguyen said.

Petroleum engineering freshman Thao Au, who danced with VSA to Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want” and Beyonce’s “Partition,” said VEX had helped her get out of her comfort zone.

“Practices were long and hard, and tonight was amazing,” Au said. “I definitely got out of my comfort zone, but it felt nice when the audience was cheering.”

Among Au’s favorites was Wushu’s performance.

“It was very creative how they put in martial arts and made a story out of it,” Au said. “It was really sweet.”

Biochemistry alumnus Ryan Valdez said he feels the VEX performances get better each year.

“I felt they all went really well. I’m so proud of everyone on the omega step team and the VSA hip-hop team,” Valdez said.

“The stage was super-ultra-small, so we were all worried about spacing. Plus, each team had people who never performed before. But the concepts get better every year, and the standard gets raised every year, so … seeing all the improvement this year was just amazing overall.”

Although many were initially worried the tight stage space might factor in poorly, accounting senior Taylor Vo felt it added a sense of coziness.

“I actually like the new stage,” Vo said. “This is the first time I’ve seen the UC Ballroom; I think it’s pretty cozy. They actually had a lot of different things going on this year. You have the photo booth, and you’ve got the Flipbook photo booth over there, and the donations for charity. It’s interactive.”

When reflecting upon this year’s performances, Vo was impressed.

“I think the lineup for this year was a lot better than the previous years,” Vo said.

“My favorite part, aside from the dancing, was the girl who played piano. It really caught my eye. I wish I bid for her.”

From cultural performances like Wushu or Lion Dance to special guest performances like Kollaboration — the biggest Asian-American talent organization in the US — star finalist beatboxer Mikey Silver, known as “Silver-Yo,” or singer Lauren Remo, VEX raised a groundbreaking $3,500 altogether for OBV.

Mathematical biology junior Ngoc-Nga Pham, who was the last to be auctioned off after her dance performance representing VSA, gained the highest bid at $1,020.

“I was shocked with the money that I got bid off for,” Pham said. “Honestly, at the moment when it got to $600, I literally just wanted to lay down on that stage.”

Pham credited her VSA family for all their support.

“I’m really thankful for the friends I made in VSA,” Pham said. “They were there for me when I got sick Thursday night. Friends would try to take care of me, giving me water and asking if I was okay. We’re not just an organization, but we bond and socialize together like a family.”

Sharing Pham’s sentiments, VEX director Tran thanked everyone who participated.

“I want to thank every single one of you for being a part of this and hope you enjoyed the show as much as we’ve stressed over it,” Tran said. “Remember to reach for your own stars and always dream big.”

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