Hoa Mai Shares His Story- Journey to America
Our guest speaker, HOA Mai, grew up in Vietnam during the conflict between the North and South. His father served in the US Air Force, was captured and taken away for three years. Hoa's mother wanted HOA to have a much better life so she planned his escape when he was 14.   On the night of his escape, he had to find the boat on the ocean with a flashing light and swim out to it.He was under fire as he swam out to where 143 people were in the thirty foot boat. Many people on the boat died after being shot; when one mother was killed, Hoa took care of her baby. HOA spent eight days on the boat without food. On the 7th night, he went in and out of consciousness and wanted to give up. Then, his mother's voice came to him and told him he would be alright. The very next day they were rescued by a fisherman's boat. Though the fish and rice offered to him by the fisherman smelled awful, to Hoa they tasted wonderful because he was alive! HOA went from boat to boat and was finally left on a platform in Hong Kong for 2 weeks with hundreds of other refugees; he then was kept in a former prison for 3 months. His family thought he had died but Hoa went out and got work so he could try to send money to his family. Next, HOA was sponsored by Catholic Social Services and came to America where he lived in orphanage for 3 months and was then placed in the foster system. After being so traumatized and moving to a new country, Hoa got into trouble and finally hit rock bottom. One day a Priest stopped to talk to him, offered him coffee and ultimately asked, "Do you want to be a drunk and a drug addict, or do you want to be Hoa?" That was the day things turned around for him.

HOA went to Maryknoll Seminary in NY for six years where he met his future wife. They both wanted to do missionary work; he wanted to go to Africa and she wanted to go to the West Bank. However, for family reasons they moved to Minnesota instead. HOA's family came to the US in 1992, ten years after his own escape.

"The least we can do is to inspire hope in people that life is going to be better." HOA does this every day in his work at Partners in Recovery where he is a mental health professional who manages a peer services program. Hoa, and everyone at PIR,
believe recovery is possible for everyone. He certainly inspired all of us with his positive outlook on, and exuberance, for life. Thank you, HOA Mai for sharing your story with us!