Paying It Forward - United Way Bay Area
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Paying It Forward

September 14, 2016


Every September Cindy Vu motivates her staff at Wells Fargo to take part in United Way Bay Area’s fundraising and volunteer events, which benefit local nonprofit organizations with the goal of alleviating poverty throughout eight counties in the Bay Area.

“I’m the person who rounds up the team to give back to the community, as Wells generously gives each of us 16 hours of paid time to volunteer,” said Vu. “I’m also a member of UWBA’s Emerging Leaders team, which has been very rewarding and a perfect way to support local communities at a higher level.”

Vu generously took time out of her schedule to be interviewed about her experience as a volunteer with UWBA. Here are the highlights from the conversation.



Tell me about your personal journey with philanthropy.


Both of my parents are refugees from the Vietnam War. They came to the United States separately, leaving their country to find a better future by getting in a boat and sailing to the states, eventually settling in Utah. My parents didn’t know each other before they arrived as they were sponsored by two separate families.

My parents started in this country at the bottom of the totem pole, as they arrived with just the clothes they were wearing and didn’t speak English. To get off their feet, they relied heavily on nonprofits like United Way to provide them skills, resources, and opportunity.

Now it’s my turn to give back and continue to help others get out of poverty, which is why I’m so involved with United Way Bay Area.



Do you remember a single moment in your life when everything changed for the better?


Growing up, my parents worked day and night to provide for me and my sister. They knew the best way out of poverty was a good education. My one moment was when I received a letter of acceptance to college. I earned the grades needed to be the first person in my family to go to college, which was the reason my parents worked so hard, to provide a better future for me. I’m very proud of this moment.



Every day United Way helps Bay Area residents make life changing moments — why is it important for you to support others in making their life changing moments?


It’s really about a notion of paying it forward. I feel lucky to be where I am today. But I’m only able to justify where I am by paying it forward and helping others through volunteering and donating to organizations like United Way, as these services helped shape who I am today.



During your service as a volunteer, what is the most important UWBA achievement you’ve experienced?


This past spring I participated in mock interviews for United Way’s San Francisco Mayor’s Youth Jobs+ program. I was able to have a personal one-on-one connection with these students and lend my experience in an effort to help them get a good job and a brighter future.



Would you recommend your friends and family support UWBA?


Yes. I’ve convinced my husband to get involved. He knows it’s important to me and genuinely wants to help, but I have to admit, waking up early on a Saturday mornings to volunteer does evoke a bit of grumbling. But when it’s over, he has always expressed how much he enjoyed it and how grateful he is to support United Way. This is a really important value I want to instill in my family.



About Cindy Vu


For the last 12 years Vu has worked for Wells Fargo, currently as Vice President in San Francisco. She has actively volunteered and participated in our Wells Fargo workplace campaigns and is a volunteer with UWBA’s Emerging Leaders affinity group.