Vietnamese refugee prospers in Riverside

By Andy Tran | Freelance

Drifting in the sea for weeks to months. 

Not knowing if you will survive or die. 

This is the case for Vietnamese refugees, referred to as “boat people” who fled from Vietnam after the Vietnam War. 

A Vietnamese immigrant who was among the “boat people” is now fulfilling her American dream. 

Anne Le fled from Vietnam in 1981 with her mother. Their boat drifted in the sea for a month until an Indonesian ship rescued them. 

Le’s voice trembled as she was getting choked up. 

“Living conditions on the boat were horrific and filthy,” Le said. “I remember vividly that people were very sick on my boat and some even died. People were starving and dehydrated.” 

“I on one hand kept throwing up because I was seasick since it was my first time on a boat. My mother and I both lost about 30 pounds in those harsh conditions,” Le said. 

Le and her mother were then stationed at a refugee camp in Indonesia for a year until they were relocated to the U.S. 

“I was very grateful that U.S. accepted me because now I am a citizen and would like to give back to the less fortunate in this country,” Le said. 

Le described her early days in the U.S., saying that it was tough for her because she was in a new land having to learn a new language. 

“At first it was tough, but I was surprised that America was diverse and so I got use to the custom fast from the help of others” Le said. 

Le graduated with a degree in business and moved to Hawaii to pursue her entrepreneurship. Le now resides in Hawaii where she owns a yogurt business and will expand her company in the near future. 

Le said that with the recent immigration laws proposed by Trump and the controversial topics on Syrian refugees, she cannot help, but to be saddened by those topics. Le wants to remind American citizens that America is very diverse and that a majority of immigrants work very hard to get to where they are because some came here with virtually nothing. 

If America wants to be truly great again, Le proposes love and understanding other people’s cultures before criticizing them. 

Le encourages people to visit different cultural communities to try their food and observe their customs in hopes that it can help people appreciate immigrants more. 

Once Le expands her business, she plans to hire people with little experience so she can teach them. 

“I once too had no experiences so I know what it feels like. I want to teach people life skills so they can improve their life,” Le said. She wants people to fulfill their American dream and said she wants to help them get to that point. 

“Working hard is vital in our society and having the feeling of working your way up to reach your goal is out of this world,” Le said. “Stay in school and work hard because one day you will thank yourself for it.”