While I work I meet the most fascinating people. This is Kim Nguyen. I met her in October 2015 at Richmond SHRM Annual Conference. My company was a sponsor of the event, and I was an exhibitor. After hearing me talk about my career transition, she reached out to me for some coaching. I helped her articulate her passion and ideal position; and then, encouraged her to pursue it with all her heart. She has just been offered her dream job working for the State of Virginia. When we met to celebrate her success, I learned her incredible story of overcoming adversity.
A native of Vietnam, she migrated to America with her parents, two brothers, and grandma when she was 11. Together they escaped Vietnam on a cargo vessel along with 4,000 other people. They spent 4 days at sea with no food or water. Her mother was pregnant with her sister. Their ship began taking on water and was sinking when an SOS was sent. They were rescued by a Danish cargo ship. They had to cross from one ship to the other on a scary ladder. One slip of the foot and her destiny would have been swallowed by the sea.
4,000 people. It was chaos. People were pushing and pressing in on her to escape the sinking ship. She became separated from her family. 11 years old, she crossed the ladder and landed safely on the Danish vessel; alone; lost; heading to an unknown destination.
Dehydrated, famished, and weak, she fainted in the hot sun on the ship's deck. The ship's crew miraculously came to her rescue. Scooping her up, they took her to their quarters and fed her chicken noodle soup. She shared her bowl with a lost boy who she imagined was her brother. The crew somehow took her photo, developed it, and posted it on the various decks. (This was long before cell phones and internet technology.)
Her mom was sick from the pregnancy, malnutrition, and the loss of her daughter. Her dad was despondent thinking his daughter perished at sea. But grandma was strong and set out looking for her. After two days grandma found her and she was reunited with her family.
They landed in Hong Kong and spent six months in a refugee camp. Because her dad fought with the US Marines in Vietnam her family was granted asylum in the US.
They were deported to Fort Indian Town Gap, a short distance from my home, and spent a month there. A church in VA was looking to sponsor a family of 5 or 6. Since they were a family of 5 1/2, the church sponsored them. She received a private school education in America where she learned to speak the English language impeccably. She went on to Princeton and got a job working for the Federal Reserve. After 20 some years she was outplaced and our paths crossed. Last year, in pursuit of her dream job, she went to Harvard, earned a certificate in Human Resources Management, and passed her SHRM Certification exam without ever having worked in the field of Human Resources.
I have never met a braver heart. She is courageous, confident, and a conqueror. I am blessed to call her my friend.