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She Is...Compassionate: Lang Le remains dedicated to empowering New Orleans' Vietnamese community through advocacy

May 10, 2024
Amanda McElfresh, The Advocate
Amanda McElfresh, The Advocate


When Lang Le earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting, she knew she wanted to use her education to help her community. A native of Vietnam who had moved to New Orleans with her family at just seven years old, Le had witnessed both the challenges and successes that they and other Vietnamese residents experienced, and wanted to work with them to find new opportunities for financial stability.



“My first job in New Orleans gave me the chance to connect the Vietnamese community here to the banking industry,” Le said. “Banking was still new for a lot of Vietnamese people because that system did not exist in our home country. People here were afraid of it because it was unknown. I was able to translate materials for Vietnamese customers. I was the gateway between individuals and families to help them connect to resources with the bank.”

After a few years in banking, Le transitioned into a new job working with insurance and investment services. Her career grew alongside her family, with she and her husband welcoming six children. Between work, school and activities, their lives in New Orleans were full. But, two disasters within five years – Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 – prompted Le to think more deeply about how she could help other Vietnamese families in even more ways.

“I learned from my mom that when you see someone who is in need, you just have to find a way to help them,” she said. “That’s always been a part of my personality and the work that I am doing. I constantly want to do things for other people and do it the right way.”

Le found herself becoming more involved in multiple aspects of community advocacy, including financial education, domestic violence prevention, disaster recovery, and helping connect Vietnamese residents in New Orleans to social services. She joined Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training (VIET), a nonprofit that provides numerous services to individuals who face challenges with English proficiency and limited resources. Today, Le serves as the executive director of VIET in a role that combines her professional experience and personal connections.

“Our main focus is direct social services, but it is much more than that as well,” Le said. “We provide technical assistance if people need to fill out complex applications, whether it’s for a business, Medicaid, food assistance or retirement benefits. We partner with the city and state on family violence intervention programs. We do a lot with disaster and hurricane preparedness to relay important information to the Vietnamese community, especially senior citizens who are vulnerable and living alone. It really doesn’t matter what the need is. We work through the challenges to find solutions.”

Le said she is proud of the resiliency of the Vietnamese community in New Orleans, many of whom have overcome obstacles associated with relocating to a new country, language barriers, natural disasters and more. Her desire to help them continue to carve out better lives will never waver, but she’s learned how to pace herself and collaborate with others to achieve the best possible results.

“You can only do one thing at a time. That was a big lesson for me when we came back to New Orleans in 2007 after being away for two years after Hurricane Katrina,” she said. “I realized I needed to take things slowly, get a feel for what people need and share the resources that are available. It’s all about learning what services are out there and how to make those connections. For my staff and I at VIET, it’s about taking things one day at a time and one problem at a time. Even if we only help one person in a day, we know we have done good work.”

VIET is located at 13435 Granville Street in New Orleans. For more information, call 504-255-0400 or email info@vietno.org.

The “She Is” campaign is a partnership between Hancock Whitney and The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, The Advocate and The Acadiana Advocate to curate and share stories about women who are thriving – what motivates them, how they motivate others, and how women can continue to drive impact. Visit www.hancockwhitney.com/she-is for more details on Hancock Whitney’s ongoing work with female leaders and to share your own favorite “She Is” story.