Mission, Culture, History

MISSION

THE MONTAGNARD DEGA ASSOCIATION
(MDA)
is a non-profit organization formed in 1987 by Dega people to assist with the resettlement of Dega Refugees in the United States. The North Carolina Division of Social Services recognizes MDA as a Refugee Service Provider. MDA works in cooperation with local refugee assistance agencies, government, churches, community groups and voluntary resettlement agencies throughout North Carolina.

We are based in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, with a satellite office in Charlotte, NC. This region represents the largest population of Montagnards outside our Central Highlands homeland in Vietnam. Historically MDA has focused its efforts on helping the Montagnard people living in NC. In the last few years it became apparent that our experience and knowledge was needed to help refugees from all over southeast Asia and MDA began expanding its services to all newly arrived refugees from southeast Asia.

Our services include English and citizenship classes, transportation assistance, employment training, job development and follow up, interpretation and translation and case management. Our goal is to assist our clients in achieving self-sufficiency which includes adjustment to life in the USA, being self-reliant, contributing members in their neighborhoods and communities, and  ultimately earning American citizenship.


           • Calendar
           • Culture and history
           •
MDA Exchange, our idea and projects blogsite
    
       • Annual Plan


New Americans.
November 21, 2008, US District Court, Greensboro, NC. These Montagnard Americans represent five tribal groups, Bahnar, Koho, Bunong, Jarai, and Rhade that make up the Dega people. Some ethnographers estimate the total number of Dega tribes at about 50.








CULTURE AND HISTORY

Who are the Dega?
Montagnard culture is an ancient one. We have lived for centuries in Southeast Asia, long before foreigners ever touched our shores. When the Vietnamese overran the coastline, we settled peacefully in the mountains known today as the Central Highlands. The term Montagnard means “mountain people” in French and is often used to refer to us, the indigenous people of the region. “Dega” is a Rhade term chosen by MDA to represent all the Montagnard tribes in the USA.
 
Find out more at
Center for Applied Linguistics
UNCG Center for New North Carolinians

From Vietnam and Southeast Asia to America
From a population of approximately one million Dega (according to the 1971 census), over 200,000 of our brothers and sisters had died by the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. In 1986, a little over two hundred of us, mostly men, arrived as refugees in the United States, primarily in North Carolina, after having spent over 10 years in the jungles of Southeast Asia fighting for our rights to exist as a people. Before this, the Dega population in the US was tiny, about 30 in all. In late 1992 the second group of 400 Montagnards arrived in the United States. More continued to come as refugees. Some were former prisoners, having spent at least 3 years in Vietnam reeducation camps or they were members of families already in the US, or they were children born of American fathers. These arrived directly from Vietnam under the Orderly Departure Program.
 
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Montagnard Dega people in North Carolina, USA
Most of us settled in North Carolina and by 2000 our population reached about 3,000. In 2002, the largest single group resettlement, 900, arrived in NC. Once again, these were mostly men without their families. Since then, Montagnards continue to be resettled as family members make their way here, families are reunited, and new refugees flee persecution by the Vietnamese government.
      Today, the Montagnard Dega population in the North Carolina is about 10,000. Most live in Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte. Greensboro and the surrounding area, located between the two other cities, is a natural meeting place with the largest concentration of families and individuals.
 
The Montagnard Dega Association (MDA)
The Montagnard Dega Association (MDA) was established in 1987 as a non-profit corporation in North Carolina by our leaders in the United States. MDA is a nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization. We are dedicated to helping all refugees regardless of their tribal, language, or religious affiliation. Our goals are to preserve the rich history and culture of all the Dega people and unite to strengthen the fraternal ties among all people.

The MDA flag
Our flag represents a united Dega people. Green stands for the mountains and forests of our homeland. White stands for peace and honesty. Red represents our blood and struggle and the circle of gold signifies justice and friendship. The elephant, shown with raised trunk, is gentle but powerful.

MDA and other Montagnard organizations
There are other Montagnard organizations staffed with dedicated people. Each helps the community in different ways. Our primary focus is refugee assistance for those here in the US. As an established 501(c) (3) non-profit, we receive funding from the State of North Carolina and are regularly audited by the state.
      We support other organizations because we recognize that no single group can do everything on its own or possibly reflect the diversity of opinion that exists. We believe finding common ground and working together is the best way to service the Montagnard community.
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