jokes that she
is a one-woman Vietnamese Peace Corps.
Born in Vietnam, Cook has traveled across the United States, helping those in need in some of America's poorest urban areas.
In that spirit of philanthropy, Cook founded the Vietnamese Resettlement Association, a Falls Church-based organization that provides assistance to immigrant women across the Washington, D.C. area.
The organization, since its founding, has served more than 10,000 women, and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure organization has taken notice.
Cook recently received a $200,000 grant from the organization to bolster the modest budget of her
group and help fund its women's health initiatives.
Cook first came to the United States in 1962 on a leadership scholarship, and was trained by the U.S. government to be a social worker and return to Vietnam to help those struggling in the war-ravaged nation and serve as a cultural go-between for the American and Vietnamese governments.
"I wanted to go heal the wounds of the war, but that was my idealistic self that wanted to do that," Cook said.
During the late 1960s, Cook
would travel to different villages to help citizens caught in the middle of the war.
said it wasn't unusual to return to the villages where she
worked to see all of her
work destroyed by an overnight bombing.
"One social worker could not heal all of these villages," Cook said.
Cook and her husband left Vietnam for the United States in 1968, after they "decided the war was going to be lost."
Through the late 60s and early 70s, save for a two-year stint in Thailand, Cook
husband, a diplomat, traveled to different urban areas across the United States, and in each she
sought positions reaching out to those in need just as she
had in Vietnam.
After going back to school and raising her
two children, Cook
focus to the needs of the Vietnamese community, except this time she
was concerned for their welfare outside of Vietnam, as many Vietnamese people fled after the fall of Vietnam or were stuck in refugee camps.
, along with other community activists in the days before the Refugee Act, lobbied and demonstrated in Washington, D.C. for Vietnamese refugees to be allowed into the United States.
It was then that she
began the Mutual Assistance Association
, in which the Vietnamese Resettlement Association
found its roots.
"We had to set up a whole system, how to help these refugees, some who hadn't been outside of their villages, to settle in a country they don't know anything about, and to help them organize communities of refugees so that they could turn around and help themselves."
Since 1990, the organization has focused more on the social issues facing the Vietnamese community by providing a number of services like translation assistance and mental health support through its Falls Church-based walk-in facilities.
Though supporting a noble cause, Cook
and the many volunteers who rallied behind her
efforts still struggled to establish the walk-in facilities, having to barter cleaning services in exchange for clinic space when the Vietnamese Resettlement Association