His uncles fought alongside Australia in the Vietnam War, for the freedom of their country from communist rule and therefore they were persecuted. There was threat of being captured and entered into "re-education camps" as many militants, police officers, civil servants and non-communist politicians experienced. The extended family sold all they had to buy a boat and flee the communist rule.
Two pirate attacks and dehydration threatened their very existence (one family member did not make the trip). They spent time in a Malaysian Refugee Camp until Australia offered the family sanctuary. The story doesn't end there. The settling process into Australian life was not easy.
"When my parents got us into the school (a catholic college in NSW) they were doing well because Dad was still around," Anh explains. "About a year in is when Dad left, and suddenly Mum was in a situation where she just couldn't afford the school fees, the books, the uniform. And the school did right by us; they really looked after us."
"Mum was behind in the school fees by about three years. And the school let her pay it off slowly, they never threatened to kick us out or anything like that. They really
showed wonderful Christian values, looking after the needy." (www.catholicweekly.com.au)
Anh uses all his life's experiences in his comedy shows and also as a keynote speaker for large companies, businesses and events. He gives the audience tools to turn hard times into bottom line results. He addresses themes of; teamwork, leadership, goal setting and change management, with a mix of appropriate comedic humour, intermingled with serious inspiration.
He is described, on his website, as being 'the perfect speaker for the current economic climate'. Anh says, "These uncertain times we face are actually an invitation to grow". (www.anhdo.com)
The Happiest Refugee
Anh is currently on tour in Australia to promote his best-selling book 'The Happiest Refugee'. It has made readers laugh and cry. The stage show combines stand-up comedy with real life stories, photos and filmed pieces to retell his amazing story.
Bookseller and Publisher magazine B.Owen Baxter gave the book the following 5 star review: "The way Do approaches his story is witty, charming, and heart-warming. This book has everything: war, escape, pirates, love, courage, racism, alcoholism, comedy, tragedy and hope. Above all, this book radiates hope."
Anh and his wife Suzanne have also written a children's version of his award winning book titled, 'The Little Refugee'. It is also available as a teaching tool for schools with the invaluable first-hand account of a child refugee.
"Many people told me not to call the book '… Refugee' because Aussies won't buy it,'' Do says. ''I told them I have faith in Aussies, and it makes me a proud Aussie to see that the title hasn't hurt the book.'' (www.smh.com.au)
Anh has pledged profits from 'The Little Refugee' to an Australian charity based in Vietnam. Profits go to Victorian nun Trish Franklin's Loreto Vietnam-Australia Program, based in Ho Chi Minh City, which provides shelter, food and education for disabled and destitute children.
1.67 million viewers
Recently, Channel Seven aired his show "Anh Does Vietnam". It was a ratings smash with a massive 1.678 million viewers nationwide. It follows Anh journeying Vietnam to see how life could have been if his family had stayed there in the 1970's.
In part one of the two-part series Anh visits the program that he has chosen to support. Handing a cheque over to Sister Trish who runs the program, they shed tears and shared a special moment of connection, evidently very moving for the audience also (I joined in with some tears). It showed Anh's heart for his birth country and his desire to change the lives of the disadvantaged children in Vietnam. Sister Trish explained that not only do the children receive an education and shelter, but they are fed two nutritious meals each day and receive care and love.
For Anh, the continuing media focus on Australia's refugee policy is a reminder of what his family has endured.
"We really should have died out at sea," he says. "And because we didn't, Mum and Dad taught us, 'Kids, we're lucky to be here. Let's do something with our life to justify the fact that we are alive. Let's not waste this chance that God's given us'."
"I realised that if you follow your heart, and you do what you know deep down in your heart is right, God will take care of the rest." (www.catholicweekly.com.au)
I have a new found respect for Anh. I have always observed him as a funny man. Through the telling of his personal story, partnered with raw honesty, both heart-warming and heart-wrenching accounts of his life and his passion for making a difference, I value and respect the impact he is making on our world. When people stand up and make a difference with their story and their passion, God takes care of the rest.
If I was to ask five people to dinner...along with Jesus, Mother Theresa, David (from the Bible), and my husband - Mr Anh Do would be the fifth.
Belinda Croft is married to Russell and she has a son BJ, 12 years. Currently Belinda is studying a Bachelor Degree in Journalism. She has a passion for God, writing, creativity, mission and social justice.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html