UNITY: The group of guests and Hoi Trinh pose for a keepsake for their album.





Hoi Trinh was a teenager when he left Viet Nam and resettled in Australia. After graduating from law school and starting a career in law, he gave it all up to help with the resettlement of other Vietnamese. While he has several interests, including serving as a popular emcee, his passion has been to find a permanent home for the Vietnamese who have been stranded and stateless in other nations: first the Philippines, and now Cambodia and Thailand.



MAKING THE ROUNDS: Hoi Trinh (top row, center), photographed here with father Trong (far right), visit guests at different tables to share good wishes.



In advance of Tet, Trinh held a reunion with many of the refugees he has helped to resettle. We caught up with him.


Q: You and a group of refugees in Orange County reunited earlier this month. Tell us about your celebration.


A: We do this every year. It’s a chance for all of us to meet up and share stories. Most of the refugees came here in 2005, and at first we did it at Mile Square Park. But last year the Viet-Phi [Vietnamese-Filipino] Refugee Association decided to hold it at a restaurant, and it was a big hit. Over 400 people came and we ran out of space. So they decided to do it again this year. Suffice to say, it was a lot of fun. Some of them came down from San Jose and other states. We were all very close in the Philippines so it was like a big family gathering with lots of food, music and story sharing.


Q: First, what is the current status of refugees awaiting asylum? And second, for young Vietnamese Americans new to the issue, please share background on the cause you’ve championed for, is it close to two decades? How many years exactly has it been?


A: Well, for the refugees from the Philippines, most of them were stuck there for 16 years. No country wanted them, including Viet Nam, so we had to fight and find them a home. Thankfully after some 10 years of lobbying we succeeded. They are now resettled all over the world: Australia, Canada, Norway and the U.S. The U.S. resettled the bulk of these stateless Vietnamese refugees, some 2,000 of them. I’m now fighting for smaller group of stateless Vietnamese refugees in Cambodia and Thailand. They too have been there since 1989. That’s 23 years ago.



A GIFT OF BLOOMS: Flowers are exchanged during a stage presentation.



Q: What keeps you motivated?


A: Not much. I know all of them personally. I consider them as part of my extended family so if I didn’t fight for them, I would actually feel guilty about it. Besides, it doesn’t require much effort on my part.


Q: Please outline what needs to be done for 2012.


A: Lobbying for the remaining stateless Vietnamese refugees in Cambodia and Thailand. Fundraising for our NGO, VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment) so that our work can continue.



QUARTET: Four refugee women sing a ballad on stage.



Q: How does having a child keep your work in perspective?


A: It reminds me of how incredibly lucky I am. And that all children deserve to have an identity, a place to call home like my son. It is certainly more difficult now to balance between personal responsibility and public duty but I hope I’m finding it!


Q: How do you stay ahead of fundraising and how can people help with this?


A: We managed to raise around $5,000 at our reunion last Sunday. I love the fact that for those who have been since resettled here, they have not forgotten those who are still left behind. It speaks volume of our people’s ideals and values. Further, we have also received small donations from friends and supporters who simply share our vision and support our work. VOICE is a 501(c)(3) organization, so they simply write us a check and send it to us. Do feel free to email me at [email protected] if you want to find out more about how you want to help.



HOMAGE: Hands over their hearts, the gathering salutes the flag.

Photos courtesy of Hoi Trinh



Q: Now you’re based again in the Philippines. What’s it like to return?


A: Just like going home really. I was there for 10 years and never really left. We reopened our office in September last year so I just get to spend more time there since then. The Philippines is a great country. Filipinos are friendly, outgoing and very open minded. I love it.


Q: Recently, you did a lot of work in Africa. Share with us some of that learning experience.


A: I was there as a consultant for another NGO doing fuel-efficient stove and clean water work in Uganda, Kenya and Haiti. Let’s just say it was an eye-opening experience. I wasn’t there for that long though so I don’t think I know much to talk about. Other than to say there’s a lot of work to be done and Rwanda is a lot more developed and well run than I’d initially thought.


Q: How do your emcee duties play into all your other commitments?


A: I only do my hosting gigs on weekends. And not on all weekends for that matter. So all is good. At least it helps pay the bills, and I enjoy making people laugh every now and then.


Q: What are your tips for managing stage frights and/or public speaking?


A: Be yourself. Speak from the heart and people will listen.



Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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