These were traits that they would need and use when in April 1975, Ho-Thanh and five of her brothers and sisters escaped from Viet-Nam in a cargo boat crowded with refugees.
After a week on the boat with very little food or water, they arrived in the Philippines and were taken to a refugee camp run by the US Navy. A few months and several camps later, they landed in Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. Once they arrived there, they waited again until a church and family sponsored them and helped them to start their new life.
When asked when was the first time she really felt safe through this ordeal, Ho-Thanh replied, “When I went to work here. It was the first time when I got my job and I went to work, at that time I realized that we are not going back. We are here for good and we are not fighting.”
Two years after arriving in the United States, Ho-Thanh met and married her husband, Bang, and they set out to make a life together in America. They have raised two children, Michael and MaryAnn. Through the years they have constantly looked to both their Vietnamese heritage and American traditions to find the best of both culture to build their life and family.
“When I had my own family, we decided…which part of Vietnamese culture is good we keep and which one is not good we have to let go. And we did the same with the American culture; what is good we adapted, we took it in and we kept it and what is not, we let it go. I don’t know that I did a good job. I don’t know that I did it right, but that’s how we see it as a family.”
Now, Ho-Thanh looks to give back to her community in the way she knows best – by offering a helping hand to women who are now in the position in which she once found herself. PAIRWN grew out of a need to offer newcomers the help and support she needed and received, to help to make the transition to their new ways of life as smooth as possible. Ho-Thanh’s mother taught her to be strong, to be respectful and to help others. She continues to live by those tenets today.
“I really feel blessed that I came, and now I feel that it’s my turn to give back to the community. The best thing that I think I can give back is to help the new immigrants — and whatever I can do I will. The Pennsylvania Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Network is the part of that: using what you have learned to help out the newcomer.”
Ho-Thanh speaks to groups all over the world. To book Ho-Thanh for a speaking engagement please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.