The Southeast Asian Community Center or SEACC (originally the Center for Southeast Asian Refugee Resettlement or CSEARR) was founded in 1975 by leaders in the Southeast Asian community in the US who saw the need for an organization that would provide hands-on assistance to the thousands of Southeast Asians who were fleeing from Vietnam after the war and seeking refuge in the United States.
In the rush to leave-some left with no more than the clothes on their backs-many of these Southeast Asians came unprepared financially, culturally, and linguistically for life in America. While many were trained professionals and technicians and had work experience in Asia, they often lacked the necessary fluency in English and/or educational credentials to obtain similar jobs in the US.
SEACC’s initial role, and one that continues today, was as an advocate for services and for the rights of citizenship on behalf of Southeast Asians in the United States, and to help the community transition and integrate into American society.
Early on, SEACC worked closely with the US Office of Refugee Resettlement to help these refugees make the difficult transition from their home country and culture to living in America. Assistance was provided across a wide range of needs including housing, healthcare, English language training, job retraining, counseling, and employment. Initially, SEACC worked only with Southeast Asian refugees. Later, as the agency developed its expertise, these services were expanded to other newer refugee communities from Cuba, Russia, Bosnia, and Haiti. From 1979-2006, SEACC assisted tens of thousands of new immigrants resettle and adjust to their new homes in the US.
In the mid-1980s, SEACC began to be involved in developing programs for small business entrepreneurship. Many Southeast Asian immigrants found that their employment options in the US were severely limited due to lack of English language fluency and lack of the appropriate training and prior work experience. Often, the only jobs available to them were those that paid a minimum wage. Not being satisfied with this level of income, more and more Southeast Asians expressed a desire to start their own businesses.
To provide services to these up and coming entrepreneurs, SEACC, in collaboration with the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Ford Foundation, began offering some of the first technical assistance and microloan programs for small businesses in the US. Through these programs, dozens of Southeast Asian immigrants in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area received loans and technical assistance to start new businesses.