Man who escaped Saigon helps Afghan refugees feel at home in Omaha

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 4:58 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Omaha-metro is getting ready to welcome another family from Afghanistan. The family of seven will be greeted by a family that’s been in their shoes before.

“We were part of that first wave of boat people that left Vietnam during the fall of Saigon,” said Huy Pham.

Huy Pham along with his family came to the United States in 1975.

“We all piled onto my grandfather’s fishing boat and we left Saigon, went out to sea for three days for the U.S. Navy rounded us all up,” said Pham.

Fast forward to now, Pham and his wife Laura live in Papillion. They are helping to turn this house into a home with all the furnishings.

“We really wanted to help after we saw the events happening in Afghanistan. It hit close to home for Huy, of course, being a refugee himself so we got some neighbors together who readily volunteered to help us,” said Laura Pham.

Pham says after decades of living the American dream, he wants to pass that along to a family he’s never met but feels a very strong connection with.

“Afghanistan is different but the similarities are so much the same in that these families need help restarting.”

But starting a new life in a new country is hard.

The Lutheran Family Services is one of the many organizations that Afghan refugees will lean on to get them through this time. But even with the help of Lutheran Family Services, refugees will need more.

“Along with each refugee, the federal government funds per person to a certain degree to sort of help with the first three months. It goes a much longer way when you have a family of seven versus an individual or a couple. But we’ve also had some very generous donors step up,” said Sharon Brodkey, Lutheran Family Services.

And with the help of those volunteers, families will have help beyond those first three months to really have a chance to start over.

“You know the sky is the limit for them and for the children and it’s a bit of cliché but it’s really the American dream and it is obtainable,” said Pham.

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