Published on Nov 27, 2015
SenHoa Fundraising Gala
October 31, 2015 – Calgary AB, Canada
Published Friday, December 4, 2015 6:48AM MST
Calgary’s Vietnamese community held a fundraiser on Thursday night to help with costs to sponsor a Syrian family’s journey to Canada, saying their plight echoes what they went through themselves.
The event, organized by the Calgary Vietnamese Youth Association, has the goal to raise $10,000 in three months toward sponsoring a family.
The money raised will go towards housing, food, transportation, and schooling.
Officials with the group say the community shares an affinity with the Syrians, because of what happened to them during the Vietnam War.
“Really, it’s a way for us to pay it forward. It’s an opportunity for us to give back to our country, to Canada, for everything we have received so far,” said Anne-Marie Pham with the association.
The event was sold out a week prior, but donations are still being accepted.
'We can showcase that refugees coming to this country are nation builders,' says Calgary professor
Calgary's Vietnamese community is coming together to help welcome and support the wave of refugees coming from war-torn Syria.
Organizers put on a fundraising dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant and held a silent auction Thursday night. Their goal was to raise $10,000 to help settle the refugees.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled or were expelled from Vietnam after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, with approximately 60,000 eventually reaching Canada.
Those who came by boat became known as the Boat People.
Peter Phan was one of them. He is still haunted by the death and mistreatment that came in the wake of the fall of Saigon.
He stayed in Vietnam for another six years before his family put him on a boat for Malaysia .
"We never forget it and even we come here and live in Canada for 20 years and after that we still have the dreams about how we escaped," he said.
The boats often lacked food and water, people succumbed to disease and were even attacked by pirates, Phan said.
After about six months, a Canadian delegate arrived and Phan got sponsored and moved to Grande Prairie.
"Very grateful when we come to the freedom country," he said.
Hieu Van Ngo also fled Vietnam by boat in 1990.
He's now a professor of social work at the University of Calgary and organized the fundraising event.
"We can showcase that refugees coming to this country are nation builders," he said.
"They can be quite vulnerable at the beginning, but with time and investment people will step up and become teachers, professionals."
Van Ngo says they want to make Syrian refugees feel as welcome as they did when they arrived.
He says he looks forward to the day Syrian food and culture is as embedded in Calgary as Vietnamese food and culture is now.
The provincial government estimates that 2,500 to 3,000 children, women and fathers will resettle in Alberta.
Source: 'Vietnamese Boat People raise money to help Syrian refugees', 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/vietnamese-boat-people-syrian-refugees-fundraiser-1.3350655.
Before millions of Syrians fled their country, the South Vietnamese journeyed in overburdened vessels teeming with humanity. Many came to North America and settled in several Canadian cities, including Calgary and Edmonton, where they were sponsored and encouraged to begin a new life.