The An Viet Foundation (AVF) successfully served the first generation of Vietnamese refugees for over 30 years at the Old Bath Community House 12-14 Englefield Road N1 in Hackney. To name a few AVF successes, it provided employment training in operating machinery, catering, and nailcare, which led to garment factories, restaurants and nail bars contributing to Hackney's economy. They also had an advice service supporting Vietnamese accessing public services and set up Lien Viet Housing Association providing decent homes to Vietnamese people, and established a East and Southeast Asian library which is a SOAS post-graduate research centre.
Unfortunately, An Viet Foundation's fortune declined with its founder and director retiring following doctor's advice and Hackney Council asked for activities to cease in June 2017. The AVF trustees and members joined Hackney Chinese Community Services and HCCS changed its constitution to include Vietnamese in its target beneficiary. In August 2017, Hackney Council agreed to renovate the Old Bath Community House to offer it to HCCS on a Community and Voluntary Section (CVS) lease in exchange for AVF to surrender its 1954 lease and HCCS to surrender its lease at Ellingfort Road. HCCS became the caretaker body to wind down AVF businesses and dissolve the company.
During this period, the lease of the building was surrendered to Hackney Council and the building had been squatted until April 2019. Hackney Council regained possession of the building on 18/09/2019 and requested that HCCS immediately retrieve AVF belongings from the building before a disposal team were to clear the content of the building.
Upon access to the building, HCCS found that the squatters had caused extensive damage to the building and left debris all over the place. Many of the AVF files and written materials were thrown to the roof by the squatters making room for squatters to sleep in. The files and papers on the roof were exposed to months of rain and weather damage. HCCS and volunteers prioritised to retrieve the materials in the library and on the roof as they represented the history of the first generation Vietnamese in Hackney/the UK. There are approximately 2000 books and 100 kg of documents as well as ornaments.
From October 2019, the retrieved items were stored in HCCS' store room and at a volunteer’s home. HCCS worked with East London University Refugees Archive and Hackney Archive to explore restoring and preserving the An Viet Foundation material and to find a permanent home for them.
We are pleased to announce that the National Archive approved a Covid-19 Archive grant to the Hackney Archive in partnership with HCCS for the AVF materials.
" This grant will support the consolidation and stabilisation of the An-Viet Foundation, an unquestionably unique resource offering an unrivalled insight into the migrant experiences of Vietnamese refugees and their children. Our project will involve the consolidation of the collection and emergency conservation work on its most at-risk elements. The project will also lead to the formation of a community steering committee to make important decisions about the future of the collection, including finding an appropriate long-term home for the material." - Hackney Archives