Three days after he was born, Do Nguyen’s family fled its small Vietnamese village during the First Indochina War. He didn’t have access to school until they returned nine years later. He made up for lost time, completing high school and then college. But after he came to the United States in 1974 to earn a graduate degree, the capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese prevented him from returning.
In the decades that followed, Nguyen became an American citizen, co-founded a chain of video stores, and discovered Rotary, where he’s now a member of the Rotary Club of Maumee, Ohio, USA, and the governor of District 6600. All the while, he dreamed of building schools in Vietnam.
Nguyen’s dream has been coming true through the DOVE (Development of Vietnam Endeavors) Fund, a nonprofit he helped found in 2000. Since then, DOVE has built more than 50 schools in Vietnam, along with 11 day care centers and three medical clinics. Nguyen has made more than 15 trips with the organization, many of whose members are Rotarians, veterans of the Vietnam War, or both.
On one visit, seeing a veteran connect with the chairman of a workshop for the blind over their bullet scars gave Nguyen’s work a new meaning. “I knew then that the mission of DOVE is more than humanitarian work,” he says. “It is about bringing love, peace, healing, and understanding between the people of Vietnam and the people of the United States.”