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Vietnamese find safe haven in Hastings
They came to Hastings in the 90's to seek refuge. Nearly a thousand of them over the course of a decade. They are Vietnamese refugees finding a safe haven here in Hastings.
News 5's Lauren Conley brings us the success story of two brave refugees.
Take a step into the Le household and you'll find a family rich with history. Kim Le came to Hastings when she was just 17. Adopted by a local family she was given a fresh start and a chance for success.
The Vietnam War terrorized an already struggling people. A battle to stop the spread of communism divided a country and tore families apart.
"My father was killed on the battlefield by the communists in the North," said Le.
Like thousands of Vietnamese, Vinh Ngo and his mother fled south.
"The communist regime, they not give you any freedom. I myself, always under their control," said Ngo.
The collapse of South Vietnam in 1975 meant even more hardship.
Vinh was ripped from his wife and three kids - a prisoner of war for seven long years. Life outside of prison camps wasn't much better.
"Very poor and hard work," said Ngo.
Kim was born at the end of the war in 1974. With the country still in shambles, everyday was a constant struggle. But, as Kim looks back on life in Vietnam, she laughs.
"I remember you know, when I lived in Vietnam, my house, they make by the leaf, the coconut leaf. When it raining and the water all get inside the house (laughs)," said Le.
Thousands of Vietnamese sought refuge in America for decades. In the early 90's Hastings Catholic Social Services joined the cause.
"We began doing refugee resettlement because the community was at that time anxious to secure some additional entry level workers," said Tom Schik.
It was a small town in rural America, blossoming with opportunity. For refugees like Kim and Vinh, this was the chance of a lifetime.
"It's very different, you know. Like hell and paradise," said Ngo.
Though, their resettlement was met with mixed reactions. Nearly 20 years later, they are thriving success stories.
Not even 40, Kim is married, with three boys and owns a bustling nail shop. It's a place where each day is a positive learning experience.
"I think I learn more and more and I feel more comfortable to talk with American people, you know," said Le.
Just a few blocks from Kim's Nails is Vinh's Asian Market. A family business, where Vinh, his wife and 8 kids all help out.
"I saw all my children grow up, go to school, study good, have a good food, have a good clothes. That, we never had back in Vietnam," said Ngo.
People tortured within their own country have found a safe haven here in Hastings. They overcame adversity to become successful, contributing members of society.
"Much better and I think, maybe, we are very lucky to be here," Le said.
About 1,000 refugees came to Hastings, but when Armour Foods closed back in 2009 a lot of opportunity was lost. Now, there's only about 150 Vietnamese refugees still here.
Vinh actually would like to move back to Vietnam someday. He'd like to find his father's grave. Eventually, he hopes that he can be reunited and buried with the relatives he's lost over there.
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