The Vietnam War is one of the most controversial events in American history that still haunts many today. For the Vietnamese tragedy continued for many years after the war ended in 1975. Those that were from south Vietnam were sent to 'reeducation camps' where conditions were life threatening and torturous. Farm lands, personal possessions, and private commerce were all eradicated and regulated under the communist regime. And after a century of foreign domination and decades at war, the country’s land and infrastructure was severely damaged and industries underdeveloped. Thus, people were unemployed, millions starved, neighbors looted, economic depression spread and the country was left in despair.
Despite the horrible living conditions, leaving Vietnam was considered an illegal act by the government. Not giving up hope, some Vietnamese began to form underground groups to organize escapes in makeshift boats that sailed into the treacherous seas. This generation of Vietnamese refugees are known as the "Boat People". They risked their lives so their children could have a chance at freedom and a future. Their stories are ones of loss, separation, survival and resiliency.
The mass exodus of Vietnamese refugees started in 1975 thru to the early 1990s, with the peak between 1979-1985. There are no clear statistics on how many people attempted the escapes or exact figures on how many died along the journey. Estimates of deaths have ranged from 200,000 to 600,000, from pirate attacks, rape, torture, prosecution, drowning and starvation. The Vietnamese Boat People generation is an aging population with stories of courage and hope and refugee experiences that need to be preserved as part of the Vietnam War history.
PRESERVING THE PAST FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The Vietnamese Boat People podcast project is to preserve and carry forward the stories of this generation so that younger Vietnamese-Americans can understand and be inspired by their heritage. And if these stories evoke others outside of this community to have more empathy towards the millions of refugees around the world today, then this project has accomplished more than we had hoped for.
ACTIVATING PAST REFUGEES TO PAY IT FORWARD
Our Vietnamese community could not have rebuilt our lives if it weren't for the generosity of others. We owe so much to those who helped us find safe refuge in another country and provided us with temporary shelter, clothing and food. Through partnerships with nonprofits and communities we hope to mobilize Vietnamese-Americans to pay-it-forward and join us in helping today's refugees transition into safer lives.
Hi, my name is Tracey Nguyen Mang, and I was a boat person.
I was born Nguyen Quan Truong-Anh, the youngest of seven children, in Nha Trang Vietnam in 1977. When I was only one, my father and oldest brother fled our country by boat. After that, my three older brothers made the same risky escape. And in 1981, my mother braved the journey with three girls under the age of 10.
We were one of the lucky ones that survived. Three separate escapes, three different refugee camps and three years later, reunited in America as one family. This statement oversimplifies the journey. But the story of how we got here, is anything but simple.
Join me on the journey of preserving my family's story and the stories of hundreds of thousands of other Vietnamese Boat People.
Read my blog posts