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  • Sasha Anand

Beyond the Waters: how one family trip inspired one teen to make waves around the world

Beyond the Waters [BTW] is a youth-led group based in New York which seeks to extend aid and solidarity to individuals facing adversity in South/Southeast Asian communities.

In the summer of 2023, Founder Hailey Nguyen and her family traveled to Vietnam. It was a highly anticipated trip, marking her parents’ first time home in over 20 years, which also happened to be her and her brothers first visit.


Hailey Nguyen on what inspired her to found beyond the waters:

Upon traveling and sightseeing, I couldn’t help but notice the poor quality of life and relics of poverty that lingered throughout every street.

I found out that one of my distant relatives was homeless and watched as kids as young as four years old hustled in the streets searching for scraps to find adequate food or change to bring home.

Although Vietnam itself was a beautiful country, the trip also brought to light the persistent issues that remain and left countless individuals helpless.

It’s places like these that the rest of the world doesn’t care enough to talk about or even are aware of.

I visited an orphanage (Chùa Kỳ Quang) I saw abandoned kids with disabilities because medical bills were too high for their impoverished parents, babies, and kids just trying to be kids.

I watched as they played together, got schooling, and ate meals (+ washed their own dishes) like one big family but I felt it wasn’t enough to just say I felt bad and then return to a life that they’d only dream of having. That’s why I started BeyondtheWaters. To bring to light the indecencies of humanity that are not nearly emphasized enough or even made aware and to combat them.

What society cares about is dictated by the news and social platforms like Instagram: but what happens when we actually do the research ourselves and find that these same crises are happening in hundreds of other places affecting other populations, communities, and innocent families?

It’s not fair to the other countries who have been through trauma to be left unacknowledged. Even though Vietnam is where the BTW journey began, I teamed up with a group of people who shared these issues from all over South/Southeast Asia. The solution lies within unity and there’s no way the world will improve without taking steps towards doing so.


On their mission:

Upon creating our vision for what we wanted our nonprofit to stand for, we quickly found it to be rooted in universal morality.

As avid individuals with a passion for vocalizing change and daughters/sons who were brought up in suffering motherlands, we found that the solution lies within compassion, solidarity, and proactive engagement.

These efforts are guided not only by a sense of empathy but also by our shared affinity for forging meaningful impacts.

We are youth-led and want to encourage initiatives within our communities on a level larger than life. Focused on standing with innocent victims during ongoing crises, we spotlight a chosen country each month.

Through awareness promotion and fundraising (with community events that bring people together), we provide immediate relief efforts, securing basic resources like water and clothes for those affected. Beyond monetary support, we keep an informative blog with accessible information covering current events, which dive into under-discussed crises and lesser-known vulnerable populations.

Our articles aim to foster empathy and global awareness, emphasizing the significance of a vocal platform. Through consistent updates and fundraisers, our goal is to provoke initiative, shed light on issues, and foster responsibility to help those who are unable to help themselves.


BTW was founded in February of 2024 and is already building bridges [and wells!]

So far, they have advocated for Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), most specifically the Rohingya population. Marginalized groups within Myanmar have been faced with persecution, human rights violations, as well as sexual assault, and more.

The Rohingya continue to be denied their rights to political office, voting, and childbirth and are forced to undergo manual labor and relocation. If they refuse or show any form of retaliation, they are raped, tortured, and in some cases, killed.

They recently interviewed a local resident in Myanmar who speaks of her gruesome experience.

Her constant fear really hit home. She described her situation as a “living hell”. Covering these silenced issues drives us forward.

BTW has aided Myanmar refugees in 26 camps in Coxs Bazar providing over $1k for essential needs such as food, water, and hygienic products as well as building schools and learning centers for children to continue their studies through the evils of the military junta.

Currently partnering with the Paani Project, BTW is currently in the process of raising money to build water wells for access to clean water in impoverished Pakistan communities which will serve hundreds of individuals and their families.

They have held numerous community bake sales and fundraisers and have held in-person discussions with BRAC leaders [the largest responder to the Rohingya Crisis] in our school to talk about these issues.

BTW has gained volunteers from across the country who join the mission and has fostered meaningful connections with people who sympathize with the cause.


In the future, BTW plans to bring light to more overlooked issues in their targeted region and continue to help out vulnerable communities in need.

After the construction of wells in Pakistan is complete, they will be spotlighting Hailey's mother country, Vietnam.

Hailey and her team will be raising funds for the same orphanage she visited during her time in Vietnam to acknowledge the orphans she got to meet.

Learn more about Beyond the Waters or get involved at

Stay updated on their mission via Instagram:@beyondthewaters


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