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The Vietnamese Boat People

Storytelling Podcasts

Stories of hope, survival and resiliency

Stories of hope, survival and resiliency


United States


Stories of hope, survival and resiliency






#17 - Be Present

Gene Binh Nguyen, the youngest of two children, grew up with a widowed mom. His father died in the Vietnam war when he was just two months old. Because Gene’s father fought on the South Vietnamese side, his family was ostracized in the new government regime. When Gene and his family finally escaped from Vietnam, they were put in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles California, where he faced racism, violence and gang life daily, while his mom tried to make ends meet. But despite...


#16 - The Ground Kisser

Thanh is the oldest of six children and was just eight years old at the Fall of Saigon. She was living in Tân Châu, just six miles from the Cambodia border and she remembers vividly the blood bath from the continued warfare between Vietnam and Cambodia. With Communism breathing down their backs and their wealth and freedom wiped out, Thanh's parents had to make an agonizing decision. Without enough gold to pay for a family of eight to flee Vietnam, they had to choose whether to stay together...


#15 - LIVE Episode! Butterfly Yellow

Thanhhà Lại was born in Vietnam in the middle of the war. She wrote about growing up there and leaving on a navy ship two days before the war ended in her first novel Inside Out & Back Again, which won a Newbery Honor and a National Book Award and eight years later is still a New York Times bestseller. She is the youngest of nine children raised by a single mother. Her father went missing during the war when she was just one years old. Her life in America would begin in Alabama and despite...


#14 - The World Looked Away

Tom Pham, was born in 1971 in Saigon as Hung Quoc Pham. At the end of the Vietnam War, his father Qouc Pham, a former South Vietnam Naval officer was sent away for many years in re-education camp. His mom was left with young children to care for in a war-torn country. Tom was sent to live with his grandparents at age four until one day, a father he barely knew started to appear again. And the two of them would escape Vietnam in 1980 when Tom was just eight years old. Tom shares what it was...


#13 - Miss VSA

VBP Student Spotlight: Growing up in Brooklyn New York, Vivian was not surrounded by many Vietnamese people. Her parents fled Vietnam by boat as refugees in 1978. And while she grew up in the largest melting pot in America, Vietnamese-Americans don’t even come close to 1% of the entire population in New York City. She never connected with her heritage until college, when she met a group of passionate and supportive students who recruited her to join the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA)....


#12 - Bolinao 52

In 1988, a group of Vietnamese boat people attempted to flee their country in search of freedom. Once at sea, the boat's engine died, leaving over 100 people stranded in the ocean. What happens next is an unbelievable story of perseverance that changed the lives of 52 survivors forever. Award winning documentarian Duc Nguyen, shares his journey in unraveling this story and making this regional Emmy award-winning film. Film (English): Film(Tiếng Việt):...


#11 - Live Episode! Nailed It

In virtually every city, state and strip mall across the U.S., people get their nails done in salons likely owned by Vietnamese entrepreneurs. How did our community come to dominate the $8 billion dollar nail salon industry? Director Adele Free Pham set out to explore the history of Vietnamese nail salons and discovered it all began with 20 Vietnamese refugee women and a chance encounter with famed Alfred Hitchcock actress and humanitarian Tippi Hedren. The "first 20" Vietnamese manicurists...


#10 - The Guy Who Steered the Ship

Leo was only 26 years old, one of the youngest crewmen on the US Navy chartered military vessel, the SS Trans Colorado. On August 11, 1980 in the midst of a storm, Leo was on watch to steer the ship, when he spotted a small fishing boat far away with two men holding up a red flag in distress. Little did he know that his crew was about to change the fate of 67 refugee lives on that boat.


#9 - Cultural Understanding

In 1980, Nesta arrived at the Singapore Refugee camp for the first time, looking to do something meaningful with her time and skills. At first, she was overwhelmed by the chaos and traumatic experiences that the refugees had just gone through. Using a combination of her training, pure instincts and cultural understanding, Nesta became instrumental in helping the refugees transition into new lives and resettlement countries. The experiences at the camp also had a profound effect on her...


#8 - Sound of Freedom

Meredith couldn’t bare to sit back and watch the boat people crisis unfold in the news. In 1979, she was among one of the first to volunteer at a makeshift refugee camp at 25 Hawkins Road, Sembawang, Singapore; the site of a former British barrack. She started the language program at the camp, and touched the lives of over 30,000 refugees. Including one young man, with Meredith’s help, was able to hear the sound of freedom for the first time.


#7 - A Liminal Space

VBP Student Spotlight: Tuan Pham, a graduate student from Yale School of Art, talks about living in a liminal space as an immigrant in America. As a child transitioning and navigating the ‘unknown’ he was constantly trying to bridge the ‘what was’ and ‘what next’. An introspective journey over the years from rediscovering Vietnam and himself, to studying Vietnamese artists, has enabled him to appreciate that ambiguity can give you the freedom to explore and create. And how that inspired his...


#6 - Understanding One's Narrative

VBP Student Spotlight: Beatrice Bui, a student from University of California Berkley, shares how her family came to America and how the stories of the Vietnamese diaspora has influenced her as a designer. She won the VBP design People’s choice award for her original design that portrays the struggles of the Vietnamese boat people refugees and the inner-generations that connect to form the community and the resiliency.


Episode 5 - Slumdog Brothers

Chris is the third child out of seven kids. He remembers vivdily the drastic change overnight of going from riches to rags, from pampered baby to slumdog in a war-torn country. He did whatever it took to survive and make money to care for his younger siblings. He was 13 when he made his first attempt to flee the country with his brothers. This is a story about brotherhood and the sacrifices a mother makes, so her children could have a better life.


Episode 4 - Riches to Rags

Steve, born in 1961 in Vietnam, was only 14 years old when the South had lost the war to the North Vietnamese. The eldest son of a socialite family, Steve’s childhood was filled with whatever he wanted. All of that disappeared overnight. A wealthy boy who had never had to do anything for himself but enjoy life, was suddenly forced to become a man. As the oldest child of seven, he quickly felt the burden of having to provide for the family.


Episode 3 - Three Days Old - Part 2

Episode 3 continues the story of JoAnh who was just three days old when her family had to flee the city of Da Nang Vietnam, just 30 days before the Fall of Saigon. After the war ended, families were stripped of any wealth and personal possessions and many were separated and sent to reeducation camps under the Communist regime. JoAnh’s family escaped Vietnam in phases, eventually reuniting in America in 1981. She shares her earliest memory of what life was like as a refugee child and the...


Episode 2 - Three Days Old - Part 1

On March 30, 1975, a Saigon government spokesman said that radio contact with South Vietnamese port of Da Nang had been lost, indicating that the city had fallen to the North Vietnamese. Just days before, a mother wrapped her three-day old baby in a hand-knit sweater as she prepared to evacuate the city of Da Nang. The family, with five other children and a newborn, fought their way through the flooded streets of rampant panic would later get separated, including losing their newborn baby.


Episode 1 - Prelude

Hi I'm Tracey Nguyen Mang. I was just under four years old when my Mom organized an escaped from the Vietnamese Communist regime in 1981. With nothing but clothes on our backs, she left everything behind and took three girls under the age of 10, deep into the jungle in the middle of the night, and eventually out into the treacherous seas. Thirty-seven years later, I'm on a mission to document every part of that escape and the events and turmoil that led my family and many others to choose...