Viengsamay Phanvongkham has experienced a long and distressing history with communism. The Vietcong executed his grandfather, and his father migrated to Vientiane, the capital of Laos because of the consequences of communism. After the fall of Saigon, his father felt it was time for he and his family to leave Laos for good, but he decided that it was better that he leave first. After arriving in Thailand, he sent a guide to escort his family through the jungles and across the Mekong River to Thailand.

The family reunited, but because they were considered illegal immigrants, they were sent to prison. Soon after, they went to the Nong Khai camp where his father was offered an interview with the Canadian immigration officials. The family’s application for sanctuary was approved and they were eager to accept it, as they wanted to leave the Nong Khai camp as soon as possible.

When Viengsamay arrived in Vancouver, he and his family helped to create a Laotian association to help newcomers from South-east Asia settle in Canada. Today, his family continues to extend their support to the Lao community.