|Download PDF of this full issue: v19n1.pdf (9.7 MB)|
Amerasian Kids: "Our Legacy"
By Greg Payton
One of my primary purposes in going to Vietnam was to investigate the situation of Amerasian children. Having seen several white Amerasian children on TV talk shows and in newspapers, I was concerned about what life might be like for Black Amerasians in an oriental country. And, honestly not knowing whether I might have left a child in Vietnam, I felt I might act as some kind of liaison between the children and a U.S. government agency.
Upon landing at Ton Son Nhut Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, I was terribly excited about returning to South Vietnam. As we were waiting for our baggage, I looked over my shoulder and there stood a Black kid who looked like any number of boys who might pal around with my own teenaged sons. I was in complete shock. This young man didn't seem to have any strong oriental features. I tried to observe him further but he disappeared into the crowd.
After we got settled in the Vietnamese government guest house, I went on a short walking tour of the area. Several blocks away in a small park across from the Ho Chi Minh City Main Post Office, I encountered a group of Amerasian children. Apparently this was a gathering place for them. As I approached, I could see the faces of the Black kids light up. One attractive young lady pointed to me and said, "Number One!" It was in this park that I met two Vietnamese women "mamasans," who act as surrogate mothers for these children many of whom are homeless and orphaned. A strange feeling came over me—along with a feeling of guilt: I had some memories of being a street kid myself, raised without knowing my own father.
Returning to the park the following day, I was able to meet and talk with both Black and white Amerasian children through an interpreter. I could see from their faces they were glad to talk to an American. They were very friendly and interested in the U.S. Some wanted to continue their educations in the U.S. (high education being difficult in Vietnam) and many talked of improving living conditions in Vietnam. I was surprised that many had basic information about their fathers. Most knew the names and area of the country where their dads had lived.
I promised a group of five young people that I would take them to dinner that evening. When I returned, I was surprised to find about twenty kids in the park. The "mamasans" knew I couldn't afford to take all these people to dinner. But the young people got together and asked if I could take this one kid, Nguyen Van Hai, because he was homeless and really in need of help. That moved me deeply.
When I returned to Bangkok, Thailand, I met with Mr. Randall Rice who is affiliated with the IndoChinese Refugee Center. He informed me that over 500,000 people want to emigrate from Vietnam but because of political red tape, only 100 per month are processed and 50 actually leave. Mr. Rice suggested that I contact refugee agencies int eh U.S. and try to help from that vantage point. Below is a list of the names of some of the children I met and a list of agencies that may be useful in helping them.
Nguyen Van Dung
Nguyen Thanh Binh
Nguyen Thanh Tung (born 1968)
Ngyuen van Hai
Tran Huy Hung (born 1967)
Duong Hoan Vu (born 1968)
Nguyen Thi rim Huong (born 1972)
Tu Thi Rim Anh (born 1970)
Pham L. Hong Loan (born 1970)
Le Minh Hieu (born 1972)
Nguyen Thi Kim Lien (born 1968)
Duong Thi Ly (born 1970)
Thach Thi My Lan (born 1970)
Le Van Hoang (born 1971)
Duong Thanh Nhan (born 1970)
Nguyen Thi Xinh (born 1970)
Phan Thi My Loan (born 1971)
Nguyen Thi Thu (born 1967)
Nguyen Thi Minh Thu (born 1967)
Huynh Thi thuy
U.S. VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
American Council for Nationalities Service (ACNS)
Buddhist Council for refugee Rescue and Resettlement (BC)
Church World Service (CWS)
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
United States Catholic Conference (USCC)
World Relief Refugee Service (WRRS)
—Greg Payton, VVAW New York