Hard Work = Better Life: Lessons learned from Vietnam and America

article top

Ai-Lynn Nguyen is a senior at Farrington High School. With this essay presented on Mothers Day 2010 at the VN-TV Ohana Scholarship Essay contest, she won the top prize, a $1,000 scholarship.

A better life is not given to a person; one must work hard for it. Steve Pavlina once said, “When you live for a strong purpose, then hard work isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.”


My parents’ reason for leaving Vietnam was to provide a better life for their children. Back in 1980, life was terrible in the third world country of Vietnam.

My parents with already three children knew that they needed to provide more their kids. But it wasn’t as easy as just hopping on a plane to America.

One day, word got out that my family was planning to escape. Knowing that it would take the officials a while to get to An Bang, my parents gathered everything and prepared to leave in the middle of the night. 28 escapees including other villagers were on board the 18-foot boat, which my grandfather had given to my dad. During the long journey, everyone was starting to feel the famine coming. My brother, Tuan, was constantly thirsty, so my mom had to feed him ocean water.

Ai-Lynn Nguyen

My other brother, David, was so hungry that he would eat anything in site. When they arrived in Hong Kong, my family had to wait for placement in a refugee camp. My mom couldn’t speak their language, so she walked around with her kids and just rubbed her tummy to symbolize their need for food. After a few days, they got placed in a refugee camp and waited for months for missionaries from America to send them to the Unites States.

For six months in Kansas, my dad took English classes while my mom continued to stay at home because she had just given birth. After saving enough money, my parents moved to Louisiana, where he and my uncles bought their own boat to continue fishing. My parents’ determination to provide more for their children has paid off. Although our family may still be struggling financially, life in America has provided more opportunities for our family.

Now living in Hawaii, my parents were able to support all my siblings who received an opportunity to attend college and are now working in well-paid jobs or own their own business.

I am so thankful for my parents for persevering to give me what I need to succeed.