Initially considering a career as an English teacher, Sylvia Andersen Haydash ended up switching paths after she accompanied her husband on his first tour of duty in Thailand not long after the Vietnam War. Learning the local Thai and Lao languages, she decided to pursue coursework at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, where she achieved a certificate in Thai language proficiency in 1978. She then began her career as a refugee coordinator for the Thai-American Women’s Organization from 1978 to 1979. Returning to the United States in 1979, Ms. Haydash became the director of the refugee resettlement program for CARING, where she helped to resettle and acculturate over 700 individuals from the Indochina Peninsula.
In 1983, Ms. Haydash once again accompanied her husband to Thailand after he was appointed as an assistant Army attaché. She went on to serve as the deputy director of operations for the Orderly Departure Program, a refugee program that extracted eligible candidates, which included Amerasian children, Vietnamese POWs and Vietnamese immigrants. During this time, she also worked with Laotian and Khmer refugees who were waiting on resettlement abroad. By 1987, she was back stateside and the director for SERVE, an organization that provides various services to the indigent and homeless populations of Manassas, Virginia. Ms. Haydash then served the city of Manassas as the Section 8 housing coordinator from 1989 to 1992.
Ms. Haydash’s early work with the refugee communities from Vietnam, Thailand and Laos, was ultimately what inspired her to pursue a career in social work. After earning a Bachelor of Social Work, summa cum laude, from George Mason University, she became a diplomate in clinical social work from the American Psychotherapy Association and sought additional certification as a certified master forensic social worker and a licensed clinical social worker. From 1993 to 1994, she provided intensive home-based counseling for teenagers in Manassas, before returning to her work in the international realm as the deputy director for Holt International Children’s Services in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 1994 to 1996. During this time, she implemented a foster care program, opened a home for unwed mothers, started a program to help single parents find work, and helped to create the first code of ethics for Vietnamese social workers.
Graduating from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, summa cum laude, with a Master of Social Work in 1996, Ms. Kaplan continued her career as the clinical director of Children’s Services of Virginia, Inc. where she worked with children and families from 1996 to 1997. She then served as an adolescent therapist with Alternative House, a transitional housing program for displaced teenagers, from 1997 to 1998. In 1998, she established her private practice, where she continues to make a difference in the lives of others through teaching methods for self-regulation to help with anxiety and PTSD. Having accomplished much over the course of her career, Ms. Haydash attributes much of her success to having never been told that there were things she couldn’t do.
Feeling that she is simply doing what she was meant to, Ms. Haydash has contributed her skills to a number of professional and civic endeavors outside of her main career responsibilities. She has spent time as the chair of the Thai-American Welfare Board and as a translator and the chair of a local refugee task force for Prince William County, Virginia. In addition, she helped to compile a handbook for refugees from the Indochina Peninsula, which was translated into four languages. Through her current work as a licensed clinical social worker, she has also volunteered as a therapist with the Give an Hour outreach program and provided therapy and diagnostic reports to the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic District Court.
For her excellence, Ms. Haydash has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades. Early on, she was recognized as an Outstanding Social Work Student by George Mason University and has been inducted into both the Phi Alpha Honor Society and the Golden Key National Honor Society. In 2022, she was further honored for her accomplishments with the Marquis Who’s Who Humanitarian Award. Above everything, Ms. Haydash considers the highlight of her career to be having made a difference in the lives to so many children and women in Southeast Asia.