Launched in 2002, SEACA was founded on the principle of inclusion, and from the beginning, has been guided by a belief that individuals can improve and build power in their own communities. The organization was started due to a lack of resources targeting the needs of Southeast Asians. Most API organizations were dominated by the needs and interests of more established API communities (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) who were typically more affluent. These issues tended to focus largely on representation and glass ceiling (i.e. affirmative action) issues.
Because of their history with the War in Vietnam and the Killing Fields of Cambodia, many Southeast Asians came to the U.S. as refugees, suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, poverty, and poor education (in an effort to return Cambodia to an agrarian society, Pol Pot destroyed all the schools and executed teachers and anyone who appeared to be an intellectual). Yet most organizations that dealt with poverty or education issues were unable or unwilling to represent the needs and concerns of SEA refugees. In order to be able represent the needs of SEA communities with a social justice perspective, it became clear that a new program needed to be created specifically targeting those communities.
SEACA creates spaces for new forms of leadership to emerge and we support the development of members of our community to create new and culturally relevant solutions to deep-rooted social, economic, and racial justice issues impacting the Southeast Asian community. We began as a youth leadership program and over the years have expanded our programs to include youth organizing, creative arts and self-expression, and most recently, health and community building through food and gardening.