HOF174: DO Thi Kim Luong

Do Thi Kim Luong  was born in Saigon, South Vietnam in a family of four brothers and a sister, where she lived happy and healthy childhood surrounded by her extended family. Her father lost his sight just before she was born. He worked as a labourer to supplement her mother’s meagre earnings. She sold fish and vegetables in a local market.

On April 29 1975, she heard planes and bombings as the government was overthrown by the Communists. Her family did not have the money to escape so they stayed in Saigon and welcomed extended family in their home as war devastated everywhere. Her parents tried to shield the children from the ravages of the new oppressive regime, but as a child, she witnessed changes and destruction in the city and dead bodies in the streets.

In June 1981, at the age of 19, she and her boyfriend decided to escape. Along with 86 people, she boarded a small fishing boat with her boyfriend, his 9 year old brother and her 5 year old nephew. All the passengers survived the journey of 8 days and 9 nights, facing obstacles like a fierce storm, fixing a broken boat motor, and pirates looking for gold. With the help of an oil tanker he helped them navigate, they reached the heavily populated refugee camp of 17,000 people on the island of Pulau Bidong, Malaysia. They settled there for 4 months, learning English, and meeting with immigration officials from different countries. Although Australia was preferred by many Vietnamese because of proximity to their homeland, she and her boyfriend accepted the offer of asylum from Canadian officials because they agreed to accept the four of them a family unit, whereas Australia would not. It had been their plan to raise the boys as their own.

After stopovers in Vancouver and Montreal, they arrived in Halifax on December 23, 1981 and settled in the small town of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. They were sponsored by a church group that supported them while they learned to speak English and familiarized themselves with their new country. After a few years in rural Nova Scotia, the family moved to Halifax where they still reside today.