Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang presents a look at the inner workings of human trafficking syndicates at an Oct. 24, 2008 special event in Houston.
March 27, 2009: The documentary It’s Also a Life, soon to be aired at the 2009 Vietnamese International Film Festival, marks just one chapter in the varied life of the filmmaker, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang. Though the film deals with Dr. Thang’s efforts to help Vietnamese guest workers confront abusive employers at a sweatshop in Jordan, his personal story has taken a winding path to reach this showdown in the Middle East.
Dr. Thang’s story begins with his perilous journey to freedom (marked by hunger, thirst, fear, and near-drowning) on the storm-tossed South China Sea in 1978, and runs through the Katrina-shattered streets of New Orleans in 2005 to embrace an ever-widening list of American communities currently in renewal.
As a refugee “boat person” from Communist Vietnam, Dr. Thang arrived in America in 1979, and has been reaching across ethnic, political, and religious lines ever since to build community. He has worked with clergy and elected officials, neighborhood leaders, and skilled advocates to improve the lives of torture survivors, victims of domestic violence, vulnerable elderly immigrants, victims of human trafficking, and evacuees from Hurricane Katrina.
Thang has created ways for Americans to pull themselves up and over barriers to achieve self-reliance. He has led efforts to bring other victims of Communism to freedom, co-founded a legal aid alliance for Vietnamese asylum seekers, set up an assistance and psychotherapy program for torture victims, and developed neighborhood-based immigrant support groups across America. Most importantly, after Katrina, Thang set up relief operations for 10,000 Vietnamese and other Gulf Coast evacuees. His initiative blossomed into relief and recovery efforts that continue to meet long-term needs in Biloxi, New Orleans, Port Arthur, Atlanta, and beyond.
Thang’s drive is embodied in Boat People SOS, the community organization he helped grow from a tiny, volunteer-based group into a 13-branch network. Through BPSOS, he helps Vietnamese refugees and immigrants in their search for a life in liberty and dignity.
Since 1980, one in 10 Vietnamese Americans has received aid from BPSOS while still in Vietnam, on the high seas, in a refugee camp, or after arriving in the United States. Post-Katrina, BPSOS teams helped nearly 4,000 families, securing them $16.5 million in aid, placing 850 in homes, and referring 265 to jobs, while building capacity for 12 faith-based and community relief organizations. Hundreds of BPSOS’ client families were African-Americans and other non-Vietnamese. By extending a helping hand to a neighbor, immigrant and non-immigrant alike, BPSOS, under Thang’s leadership, works to ensure a life in dignity for all.
Dr. Thang’s other film credits include: Co-producer of Freedom or Death (1989), a documentary of the tragic final chapter of the Vietnamese boat people saga, and producer of over 50 news stories (2005-present) for Vietnamese Public Television and Little Saigon TV.