Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) is a community-based social services agency targeting the low-income immigrant and refugee community.
Originally established by ethnic Chinese immigrants from Vietnam, the organization has grown to represent clients from over 40 countries, including immigrants from the Philippines, Burma, Ethiopia, and Russia. CMAA is particularly proud of its diversity, as shown by its multiethnic Board and its Executive Director being a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines. CMAA staff speak over twenty languages.
CMAA offers services for the community spanning several generations. After-school youth programs provide responsible programming for kindergarten to 8th grade children. Mentoring and basketball leagues help provide productive activities for young adults. Adult education programs offer lessons in English proficiency, financial literacy, and computer skills.
A wide array of social services are offered, including housing assistance, health care assistance, job skills training, and job placement. CMAA is particularly proud of its senior services, including a robust homemaker service as well as an active Golden Age Club, which offers weekly activities ranging from calligraphy to Tai Chi.
Community members who had adapted to American life counseled individuals with culture shock, helped families find housing, referred job seekers to employment opportunities, and translated information for those who had not yet acquired new language skills. These community-minded individuals joined together to start a social service agency.
In 1981, CMAA formalized its activities with government funding and was established as a non-profit organization. Since then, CMAA has evolved into a multi-faceted social service agency supported by the state and local government, foundations, corporations, and private individuals.
Duc Huang (right) and daughter Yman Vien (left) speak about the founding and contributions of Chinese Mutual Aid Association for its 30th anniversary.
TWO OF OUR FOUNDERS:
The late Mr. Duc Huang and his daughter, Ms. Yman Vien
Having been a successful businessman in Vietnam, Mr. Duc Huang came to the United States in 1978 with the sponsorship of the Jewish Family & Community Services. Out of gratitude for the help he and his family had received, Mr. Huang worked with his daughter Yman Vien and others to found Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) in 1981 to extend to Chinese and other newcomers the same hospitality and helpfulness he had received. From his own experiences, Duc knew the value of building and maintaining strong family and community ties as the foundation for a new life in a new country.
Building beyond Duc’s original intention to preserve Chinese culture and traditions, CMAA has since become a pan-immigrant agency that employs a diverse group of staff that speaks over 20 languages and cater to all immigrants and citizens in the community. His vision of creating a social services agency in an urban environment has not only come true, but also expanded in the north and northwest suburbs of Illinois.
Through the years, Duc has supported CMAA as an advisor and member of the Board of Directors as well as a productive fundraiser. His heartfelt commitment, energetic presence and social activism in the Chinese community in a variety of roles, such as being in charge of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association as President from 1997-1998 and Chairman from 1999-2000, have contributed to the welfare of many people.
Duc passed away at age 82 on August 23, 2018. Though we are saddened that Duc is no longer with us, we are committed to building on his dream of serving newly arrived immigrants and refugees.
At the age of 18, Yman Vien, a Vietnamese woman of Chinese descent, fled the communist regime in Vietnam with her father Duc Huang, two brothers and one of her sisters. They arrived in Chicago in 1978 and her mother and two other sisters arrived 10 months later. Ms. Vien enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at Truman College. She went on to earn an associates degree with Phi Theta Kappa honors from Truman and later transferred to Loyola University where she earned her BS degree in Business Administration and Managerial Accounting in 1985. During the year she earned her undergraduate degree, she worked full time for the Jewish Vocational Services helping other Vietnamese refugees find employment.
After graduating from Loyola University, Ms. Vien went on to hold positions at Madison Financial Corporation and two other community banks. In 1994, she accepted the position of Executive Director of the Chinese Mutual Aid Association which she and her father founded in the late 1970s.
Yman Vien has received numerous awards for her professional and civic activities including election as the Outstanding Young Woman of America in 1994, selection as one of the top “100 Women Making a Difference” in Today’s Chicago Woman in 1996, and receipt of the Athena Award in 2000 and the Anti-Defamation League’s Horatio Alger Award in 2003.