Vu Ha is a first generation Asian American and the first to receive a college education in his family.
“I am not originally from the United States and was born in a refugee camp in Thailand as my parents sought out a clear passage to the U.S.,” he said. “When we finally came to America, our family had zero dollars to our name. With no house, no job, no sense of belonging anywhere just yet, it would be an understatement to say that my family struggled initially.”
Ha recalls his family of five sleeping on the floors of family friends’ apartments and using coupons to get free lunches at his elementary school. To help make ends meet, his grandpa at the age of 56 was laying tiles and bricks, his mom worked at a nail salon, and his uncle cut hair.
“My unique background taught me this: that hardships of any sort ultimately teaches you the value of hard work,” Ha said. “I am forever thankful for those who have changed my life for the best and influenced me to strive for more. It is due to those around me who have inspired me to do more for those that cannot help themselves.”
During this past year, Ha began the volunteer initiative Socks n’ Sandwiches after developing a strong passion for community work and volunteering in underserved communities at the College of Pharmacy.
On the fourth Thursday of each month, Ha and other volunteers make 60 sandwiches and deliver them to local homeless shelters around the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Each sandwich bag includes a positive saying or quote on a notecard. Socks are fundraised monthly as well.
According to Ha, there has been an outpouring of support from the world of pharmacy. To date, the college’s Department of Pharmaceutical Care & Health Systems, Park Nicollet Medication Therapy Management Team, Mayo Clinic Austin Pharmacy, Walgreens Specialty St. Cloud and many more have helped Ha make sandwiches and donate socks for his program.
“Although the process is meant to help those who cannot help themselves, I have found that coming together for this activity promotes teambuilding and brings awareness for the cause,” said Ha. “Pharmacists and pharmacy students have offered countless hours and their services to Socks n’ Sandwiches to demonstrate our profession’s ability to understand the culture of our underserved patients and continue our philanthropic ways. As a whole, we have fundraised over 200 pairs of socks and more than 300 sandwiches have been passed out this past year thanks to our efforts.”