HOF053: NGUYEN Mai Chi

In 1979, 18-year-old Nguyen Mai Chi left Vietnam in a boat with 310 people, mainly ethnic Chinese, on board. Seven days into the journey, the boat ran aground near the shores of Indonesia’s Anambas Island and took on water, forcing the passengers to swim ashore. A lighthouse keeper sent word to local authorities, who brought the refugees to a UNHCR camp on a naval ship.

Arriving in Montreal seven months later as a government-sponsored refugee, Nguyen worked in manufacturing for three weeks before finding a job teaching French to newcomers in the town of Lachute. She enrolled in the University of Montreal’s school of nursing within the year. She would go on to complete a bachelor and then a master in community health – realizing a career goal that had formed back in the refugee camp when she volunteered to care for the sick and help birth babies.