Winnipeg tailor pays it forward to celebrate anniversary of refugee journey

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Winnipeg tailor pays it forward to celebrate anniversary of refugee journey

A Winnipeg tailor celebrated the 41st anniversary of his escape from Vietnam this weekend by reaching out to the community that helped him get a new start in a new country.

Tam Nguyen, known throughout the city’s West End as Tam the Tailor, made 100 banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) to feed needy people in the community.

On Sunday, Nguyen set up outside Thunderbird House on Main Street to distribute the meals.

“I think of the happiness I have and the good luck I have,” Nguyen, owner of Tam Custom Tailor on Ellice Avenue, told 680 CJOB.

“It’s a celebration to give back. I know (what it’s like) to feel hungry, to feel thirsty, to feel scared.

“Now I’m OK. I’m doing well. My family is doing well, so I reach out to share that with everyone and help whatever way I can.”

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Nguyen said April 30, 41 years ago, was when he first got on a boat to flee a dangerous situation in Vietnam, and May 4 is when he was “born again”, starting a new life as a refugee.

“When I ran away, there were a lot of (feelings) going — I was scared, happy, excited. I would have freedom or I would have died,” he said.

“It makes it very special, a big day.”

Although Nguyen is now a well-established business owner in Winnipeg and a familiar face in the community, he said when he first arrived in Winnipeg, one of the ways he learned English was by listening to 680 CJOB all day, every day.

“When I came here, I had no English, nothing. I didn’t have much school in Vietnam — only Grade 5 or 6 because of the Vietnam War. We’d go to school for half a day, then run away from fighting.

“So I listened to CJOB when I came (to Canada). I worked at a tailor shop, and we always listened to CJOB, because my friend said, ‘Tim, this is where you can learn English, because there are so many people talking.

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“I learned English from the radio.”


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