Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage: Introducing Viet Hoang

May 15, 2023


“My name is Viet Hoang and I have been the Director of Dining Services for Chartwells K12 for the past ten years. Previously I worked for two years with Flik. I am honored to tell my story as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – even though I am Asian year-round!

“I was born in Saigon (Ho Chi-Minh), Vietnam. After the Vietnam War was over, during the 1980s a lot of Vietnamese – including my brother and I – escaped the country to seek a better life. As I recall, there was a fishing boat completing trial runs at night near the Coast Guard, which was aware of this boat. One night, the fishing boat disappeared into darkness, vanishing out of sight of the Coast Guard. Inside the boat were me, my brother and 20 others. I was only 7 years old and can still remember sitting quietly and frightened next to the boat’s loud engine with all these strangers and aching for my parents as we left our homeland behind us.”

“After many days in the South China Sea, the boat ran out of gas and food. The waves were as tall as skyscrapers during stormy nights. I remember cupping my hand and using the rainwater to quench my thirst. After the storm was over, I looked out and saw a huge oil tank ship. The crew had thrown down a rope and tugged our tired boat to an Indonesian island.

“While in the refugee camp in Indonesia, there was no education, just running around with other kids and a lot of swimming on the beach. The older men would trap any sea creatures that were caught during low tides for our breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Indonesian government also distributed monthly rations of canned and dry goods for the camp

“My brother and I waited for our paperwork to be processed to venture to any selected country to which we wished to immigrate. At the beginning of every month, the camp officials would announce on a loudspeaker the names of refugees who had been approved to leave Indonesia. My brother’s and my name were not called for two years.

“Eventually, a church group in New Jersey sponsored my brother and me and we entered the state’s Division of Youth & Family Services (DYFS). Suddenly, I was a free kid in the New Jersey school system and every meal was so important to me. My brother knew that I needed a home because he was so young himself and could not take care of me on his own in this new country. While in the DYFS system, I was adopted by Bill and Joan Murphy, who also had two kids of their own, Gregg and Kristy. Even though my biological parents were back in Vietnam, Bill and Joan and their children treated me as part of their own. I will forever be grateful.

“Currently, I have been married for twenty years to Colleen. We have a 16-year-old daughter, Lily, and a 12-year-old son, Cameron. Even though we all have good and bad days, my bad days do not compare to what I went through as a kid. I pinch myself everyday knowing how far I have come in my life. I am honored and grateful for this opportunity to share my story.”

Thank you, Viet Hoang, for taking us on your journey!