No one ever said it would be easy…

Dear friends,

I wanted to share a personal story about why the fight for social justice and equity are important to me. Last summer I hiked up Aasgard Pass with my friends. The hike was 12 miles long and took all day. The final three-quarters of a mile we ascended 2000 feet. It was one of the slowest, most painful hikes I have ever done in my life. My thighs burned constantly. I was worried I didn’t pack enough food and nagged my friends for more trail mix. “How many handfuls have you had already, James? We have to ration it. Only five handfuls each. Five!”

“Your hands are bigger than mine!” I was hangry and snapped; there was some name calling. We were grown-ups fighting over trail mix.

I tried to stay motivated by hiking in small, 10 minute bursts. In between, I would look back to see how far I traveled and felt frustrated after realizing I didn’t get very far at all. I felt exhausted, demoralized and thoughts of giving up pierced my mind.

I imagine many people, possibly even you, feel this way right now. Our collective communities have fought tirelessly to protect the rights and dignity of our most vulnerable, including refugees and immigrants, Muslims, women, Black lives, people who experience homelessness, the LGTBQ community, and more. These same communities are being targeted and threatened like never before. All of us at VFA are reminded that our journey for social change is long, tiring and at times, painful (my thighs have been burning non-stop since November). This is both a humbling and uncomfortable reminder. Despite these obstacles, VFA is committed to living, and fighting for, our shared values of equity, inclusion and progress.

We can’t do it alone though. We need your support. Our annual benefit dinner is next Friday, March 17th, exactly one week away. This is a great opportunity to support refugees and immigrants and celebrate our community’s strength and success. You can purchase your tickets online at If you can’t attend, please consider making a $125 donation to VFA instead.


James Hong
Executive Director

PS: In case you’re wondering if I ever made it to the top, I did (eventually)! My friends showed tremendous patience and generosity that day even though I was slower and whinier than usual. Our next backpacking trip will be to Mt. Rainier this summer and I carry the lessons I learned from that day on Aasgard Pass: it’s ok to ask for support, take small breaks along the way, and always bring extra trail mix.