VIETNAM

The Next Generation

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The People

Headshot of Henry Nguyen Henry Nguyen
Nguyen was 18 months old when his family fled Vietnam in 1975 during the final days of the Vietnam War, known in Vietnam as “the American War.” He grew up in the United States, graduated from Harvard University and received an MBA and medical degree from Northwestern University. In 2001, he returned to Vietnam to help his father set up a telecommunications company, a trip he thought would last two to three weeks at most. But after considering lucrative offers to return to the United States to work, Nguyen decided to stay in Vietnam. He now represents IDG, a venture capital group seeking investments in Vietnam, and is also the co-owner of VINE, a hot new restaurant in Hanoi.

Headshot of Le Viet Tien Le Viet Tien
Le is a construction engineer helping to build the Ho Chi Minh Highway, a major route that will connect the northern city of Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Covering the rugged mountain terrain that was once the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where more than 20,000 Vietnamese lost their lives during the Vietnam War, this 1,000-mile highway will cost more than 400 million dollars to construct and is the largest public works project in the history of Vietnam. Le’s father, a surveyor, worked on the trail decades ago, and it was Le’s “dream come true” to work on the highway project. Today, he supervises building crews on the road, living with fellow engineers far from his wife and baby daughter.

Headshot of Le Thi Phuong Le Thi Phuong
Le is a farmer in Quang Tri Province. In 1977 she lost a leg when she stepped on a landmine in the rice paddies. There are countless unexploded landmines and bombs from the war that are still hidden in rural Vietnam, affecting families like Le’s every day. In her province alone, half of the land remains off-limits to farming due to landmines. Le is the sole supporter of her parents, brothers and five-year-old son, Minh, and has been farming since she was 13 years old. She is also an award-winning athlete, winning gold medals in long jump, shot put and the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter dash in events such as the National Paragames and Quang Tri Sport Event for People With Disability. With her prize money, she has built a small house for herself and her son next to her parents’ home.

Pham Van Vinh and Pham Loan smile for the camera. Pham Van Vinh and Pham Loan
Fifteen-year-old Vinh and his 12-year-old sister Loan live in one of Ho Chi Minh City's poorer districts. They support their mother, who lives a 12-hour bus ride away in central Vietnam, by selling lottery tickets on the streets for three cents apiece. On a good day, they can sell nearly 300 tickets and make about three dollars. After paying for room and board in a group home with 30 other children from their village, they manage to save about US$1.50 a day. Despite offers to enroll them in school, they feel they cannot afford the time off work. They hope one day to return to their home village of Thuy Hoa.

Headshot of Tran Minh Dang Tran Minh Dang
Tran was 12 when he won a singing contest in his home village near the Mekong Delta, performing Vietnamese folk songs. He later attended Ho Chi Minh City’s Conservatory of Music, where he now works teaching music. With his wife Thuy, who studied economics in Ho Chi Minh City, he was one of the thousands of Vietnamese who come to the city each year from the countryside, in search of educational and financial opportunities. As a singer, Tran is concerned about how Vietnam will preserve its history and traditions. He and his wife now live with her entire family in a large house in Ho Chi Minh City.

Headshot of A Lan Duong A Lan Duong
Duong is a leading exporter of Vietnamese handicrafts. Her changing fortunes have paralleled that of post war Vietnam. She was one year old when the war ended. After the government labeled her family “dirty capitalists,” confiscating their belongings and forcing them to live in a workers’ tenement, Duong’s father tried to escape Vietnam. When she was 14, she and her father fled the country on a rickety boat, reaching a crowded detention camp in Hong Kong where they lived for six years with thousands of other Vietnamese seeking political asylum. Unable to gain asylum themselves, Duong and her father returned to Vietnam in 1996. She worked as a hotel clerk and a real estate secretary before creating her own business plan. Today, Duong owns three shops featuring her own clothing and handicrafts designs, in addition to the Mosaique Living Room, a club in Hanoi.

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