Life at VF
May 30, 2018

Serving with a Purpose: Q&A with Yusri Freeman, Senior Manager, Technical Design, Product Development, Vans, Americas

This year, three VF associates were featured in the company’s 2017 Annual Report, titled “Purpose Driven.” This is one of three in-depth profiles on each of these associates. 

Yusri Freeman, Senior Manager, Apparel – Technical Design, Vans®is purpose driven.

In his role at the Vans brand, he helps bring the designer’s visions to life, by translating them into technical specifications for production.

During his free time, he’s changing lives, one meal at a time.

Yusri is one of many volunteers who feed the homeless at organizations in downtown Los Angeles, California. He also supports the newly arrived immigrants and refugees from around the world in his community through an international nonprofit organization in Glendale and Anaheim, California. 

 Read below to learn more about Yusri’s story.

Tell us about your role at Vans.
I have been with Vans for nearly 14 years, and in the clothing business for over 25 years. I manage the apparel technical design department – a business unit that is responsible to translate the aesthetic visions of our designers into technical fit for Vans worldwide production. 

What motivates you to volunteer? How do you think it relates to your career?
My life guiding principles are simple. I believe that once you learn something, you need to teach. Once you gain something, you need to give. After being in the apparel industry all these years, I continue to teach what I’ve learned from this industry to my fellow associates. I teach them the art of technical design while focusing on building future leaders in this field. I live by the same principles in pursuing my passion for community service. I’ve learned something about life as an immigrant, and the difficulties of bringing food to the table. It’s a humbling experience to give back what I’ve gained to the homeless and newly arrived immigrants in my neighborhood. 

How did you first get involved with helping the homeless?
It started when I first moved to Los Angeles. I’m a big opera fan and love to go to the opera in downtown LA. I got lost once after a performance one night, and was shocked to see the number of homeless people. I later learned that there are more than 43,000 homeless people living in downtown L.A. At that point, I knew I had to do something to help. For the past couple of years, every other month on Saturday I volunteer with a group of friends, preparing food for lunch and dinner, serving it, and doing set up and clean up. 

You mentioned that your experience as an immigrant is part of what motivates you to give back. Can you share more about that experience?
Growing up in both Singapore and Malaysia, I was taught kindness by my late grandparents and mother at an early age. They were in the restaurant business and fed many homeless people who could not afford to pay. They also taught me about giving and sharing, and how it feels to not have enough food on the table. When I first arrived in the United States as an immigrant and a student to study textiles and fashion at Philadelphia Textiles (now, Philadelphia University), I experienced the same struggles as those my family helped when I was young.

What do you find the most rewarding aspect of this work?
The most rewarding part is getting a simple ‘thank you.’ It’s something that you can’t quantify. In my heart, I know that the meal I serve could be the only meal they have for the day. For them to say, ‘thank you,’ that’s enough.

What advice do you have for others looking to pursue the issues they care about?
There are so many ways to give back, but I think it’s important to start with the needs in our own communities. I know that folks in my neighborhood are hungry. There also are newly arrived immigrants from around the world who need our support regardless of how they were displaced. I focus on those areas. Each community has many needs, but I encourage everyone to start locally.

Want to see more of our Purpose-Driven associates? Check out our 2017 Annual Report.

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