'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.