Refugees' Gratitude to Rescuers
I was seven years old when my family was rescued from the South China Sea in June 1980. We were part of the "Boat People" crisis. We were ten days at sea, lost and depleted of food, water and fuel. Barring a miracle, death was an imminent certainty. That miracle appeared in the form of a liquefied natural gas carrier flying the American flag, the LNG Virgo, an image that forever cemented itself in my mind as being synonymous with life and freedom.
THE QUEST AND THE HOPE
I've spent the better part of my adult life searching for the Captains and crews of the 2 US ships that rescued us: the LNG Virgo with the initial rescue and the USNS Sealift Antarctic with the transfer to Singapore. I’ve located a few officers and others from the same fleet. We met for a reunion last month in Florida. Words cannot adequately describe the emotions as my parents and I embraced our saviors.
MY GOAL AND GRATITUDE
In gratitude, I want to make a documentary that focuses on the lives and heroics of seafarers who rescue people in distress. My goal is to raise $60,000 to fund a documentary. The money will be used to hire a film crew, sound and graphic editors and to cover the costs of traveling to meet and interview the seafarers and their families.
Help me to give these men their proper place in history. Let’s preserve the heroics of the past, recognize the present benevolence and document for the future the truly historic contributions these men make to entire communities for whom existence would not have been possible. This project can demonstrate to the world how we can heal the wounds of war with the compassion of the human spirit.
I hinted that some super exciting things were percolating. I didn't mean to tease. I just didn't want to jinx anything until it was an absolute surety. Well...
Finding the Virgo secured an on camera interview with Bill Hing, Professor, Director of the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic and Dean's Circle Scholar. Professor Hing teaches at the University of San Francisco School of Law, my al mater. He gives an eloquent explanation for the U.S.' policies with respect to the Post-Vietnam War refugee crisis and a very compelling analysis for the current state of affairs. For the full picture, ... you will have to watch our documentary!
Next, "Finding the Virgo" is made possible (for real!) by the generous grant of $10,000 from the William N. Hancock Family Fund!!! Those of you who know me, know that I am not usually an exclamation-mark-in-writing girl. And I practically recoil at the redundancy of two. But securing this grant absolutely felt like a 3 !!! moment.
Bill Hancock is not only a brilliant appellate attorney, he is a man of empathy and humanity.
More exciting things are brewing. I cannot jinx myself. So stay tuned.
Very happily yours,
Last week was another week of rejections. We (I) lost out on two grants. I felt defeated and emotionally exhausted.
Then on Monday, I received a check in the mail for $100 from someone I happen to know barely makes a living wage. The fact that she would dip into her meager savings to support this project humbled me deeply. I will not cash that check. I will dig deeper, cast away my ego, and be worthy of your collective faith in me, in the worthiness of this project.
I met with my co-producer Barre Fong yesterday. We laid out a game plan, got honest about finances, and geeked out on artistic direction. Barre, too, is taking a leap of faith with me. I am so lucky to have his steadfast optimism and considerable talent. See teaser here:
I was seven years old when the Virgo and her crew rescued us. Until then, I had never tasted chocolate. I knew what it was, had seen it on TV, but tasted it, never.
There were about 20 kids 12 and under in our group. We were hungry, shy and linguistically mute. Nonetheless, the crew spoiled us.
I remember getting bags of M&Ms, but because of the way the M&Ms are shaped, we thought they were medicine pills and that we had to swallow it with water. It made sense, since many of us were sick from being cold and wet and sitting in a damp place for the better part of 10 days. We didn't want to be impolite, but we really didn't want to take medicine.
Then one adult who could read English saw the word "candy." She convinced us that we had to crunch, chew and swallow it. I was apprehensive to bite down on a pill until I took the leap of faith. To my surprise, the most delicious substance coated my mouth. Chocolate. After that, every time we saw a crew member, we'd hold out our hands and say "candy."
The best part of this anecdote is that Captain Schonn kept meticulous records. When I met Karin Schonn in New York, she gave me her husband's logbooks. There it was, memorialized in contemporaneous business records: during the two days we spent on the Virgo, we consumed 10 bags of candy. Somehow I doubt they were individual fun size bags.
Finding the Virgo: A Journey of Gratitude
I'm still plugging away for grants. I am cautiously optimistic that the film will be completed in 2018. There are some really exciting developments that I'm not allowed to publicly discuss yet. I will broadcast it when I am permitted to do so. Stay tuned!