Attorney, community advocate Sivongxay looks to time as refugee in run for council
From the Vatsady Sivongxay campaign, April 17, 2017: Vatsady Sivongxay, a former refugee and now an attorney, community advocate and mother, has announced a run for City Council.
“My parents worked really hard to provide their children, extended family and community members the opportunity for a better life,” Sivongxay said. “In my career and volunteer service, I’ve applied those same values of hard work, community engagement and justice. I’m committed to being a champion for all residents – especially those who don’t yet have a strong voice in government. I believe that with new, passionate leadership we can work together to protect and increase affordable housing, improve access to quality education and enrichment programs, reduce the wage gap, fight for gender equality, strengthen local businesses, build a sustainable future and better connect city services and resources to our many diverse neighbors.”
Sivongxay and her family fled Laos to escape the aftermath of the Vietnam War and civil war. They spent two years in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines before coming to the United States in 1986. As refugees, her parents had to leave behind their careers as a nurse and school principal and start over in America as janitors and factory workers.
Having been displaced and forced to support her family and refugee community as a young child, Sivongxay said she knows firsthand the challenges of housing, financial and food insecurity. Her earliest memory of how little they had was when she asked her father to buy her a $3 Scholastic schoolbook and he said he couldn’t afford it, she said. She remembers vividly his expression, she said, realizing that he had to decide between buying a small book to fill his daughter’s mind or putting food on the table to fill her belly.
Many similarly gut-wrenching memories inspired Sivongxay to be an advocate and champion for the most vulnerable populations, children and working families, according to her campaign.
After graduating from Suffolk University Law School and passing the bar, Sivongxay opened a law practice to help entrepreneurs realize their small-business dreams and guide immigrants through the complex immigration system.
In her recent post as director of public policy for Boston City Council District 7, Sivongxay advocated for issues of equity. She initiated conversations to create Reclaim Roxbury, a community-driven effort to advocate for urban development that benefits all residents, and organized legislative hearings and facilitated conversations among tenant advocates, landlords and lawyers, resulting in a landmark agreement protecting affordable housing – one of the most pressing needs in many Massachusetts cities and towns. She guided youth and parents on how to push for equitable access to educational opportunities and services for students and more effectively making their voices heard.
Sivongxay is committed to compassionate community service, her campaign said. As a trustee of the Harry H. Dow Memorial Legal Assistance Fund, she fundraises to ensure access to legal services for those deprived of justice. As a director of the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts, she promotes diversity in the legal field by organizing career networking events and supporting scholarship opportunities. As a weekly volunteer at the Cambridge Women’s Center, she helps to empower women – connecting them with a wide range of resources to overcome social and economic challenges. All of this gives her a deeper insight into the challenges faced by so many in Cambridge, the campaign said.
Sivongxay has a husband, Stephen, and son, Nile.
Her website is vatsady.com.