The Real Vietnam
I met Vinh Tran on a sunny winter's day at Milson's Point. He pulled up in his vintage US army jeep and told me a fascinating story. And now I want to relay that story to you. You can find a pic of me in his jeep on my 'About' page.
Vinh came to Australia searching for prosperity and safety after the devastation wrought on his country from the Vietnam War. Vinh's eldest sister was first to make the perilous journey along with millions of refugees fleeing the aftermath of the war. Her journey by boat began in 1979, four years after Vietnamese Independence and US withdrawal. After 6 attempts by boat she finally made it to Indonesia and was eventually sponsored to come to Australia. She brought her entire family here 8 years later.
Vinh ran the family restaurant business based in Bondi in the 90s and ran several businesses up until 2007 when he made a pivotal decision to revisit his homeland. That visit and the GFC of 2008 would alter his path in a way he couldn't have predicted. He had achieved many great things, like raising a family, building success in work and life but there was something inside that always remained with him; Vietnam and his people. He knew he had to give back somehow.
Vietnam is a beautiful country with equally picturesque cities. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh CIty (Saigon) are regular tourist destinations for travellers. But once you start to explore further on from the city limits; what some call the 'outskirts', you begin to see the harsh realities of life for a people forgotten. The elderly, alone and weak, children poor and lost, the sick and disabled affected by the grip of an old war that seems unrelenting. The farmers still tend the fields of rice paddies but agriculture is no longer what it used to be for this place and support is scarce.
Despite the despair of disregard, these people wouldn't give up. Neighbours help neighbours and communities help their people. Vinh always felt he had to be part of this. He wanted to help by giving hope, love and bringing awareness to these people, his people.
That's why, with the invaluable help of Son 'Go Vap' (pictured) - a man who made Vinh's dream of bringing the army jeeps to Australia a reality - Vinh was able to give back to his country by helping those who needed it most. Vinh raises awareness by driving his jeeps around Sydney (the big Gate in Chinatown is a regular spot you might find him on the weekend) and hiring them out to raise funds for a very good cause. 'Artists for Orphans'(AFO) support orphanages in Vietnam and provide other support for teenagers who are vulnerable to criminals & trafficking, by teaching those teens a trade, like fishing.
The title of this article is The Real Vietnam. You might be forgiven for thinking of the country when you read it, but the real Vietnam is Vinh Tran. A man with a big heart that loves his country and his people.
Vinh has had great support from people here in Australia and it was his wish that we mention some of them here as thanks for their support: Roni Wildeboer (founder of AFO), Stuart Bonser & Jess Sherritt, Michael Davidson, Steve & Scott (ex servicemen).
Vinh runs his jeep hire service in Sydney and tours in Vietnam. If you wish to support Vinh and his cause you can do so by contacting Party Brigades on 1300 036 469 to hire his jeep and tour services.