2013 Phan Van Do and his wife Ngon
Do was born in Tinh Hoa, a small fishing village in Quang Ngai province, Vietnam. His family, like all families in Vietnam during that time, was shattered by the French and American wars. His grandfather was imprisoned, tortured and killed by the French. His mother continued to hemorrhage after his birth. Because she had to run to the bunker so many times to keep her children safe from French bombers, she eventually bled to death. At the age of 12 Do's father, suspected by the Viet Cong of collaborating with the Saigon regime, was executed by the VC. The next year his only brother was killed by the South Koreans while trying to escape a battle. An orphan now, he was raised by his eldest sister.
He grew up wandering about the villages with his sisters. These areas were considered 'free fire zones' by the Americans so they could all have been killed at any time. They did not have enough to eat or enough clothes to wear.
After two years of this Do walked to Quang Ngai city through the war zone. He stayed with his sisters in relocation camps (he calls them concentration camps). Eventually he moved in with relatives in the city. There he met American G.I.'s and befriended them. This is where he learned English and for that he feels he owed them a debt.
An astute student
A hard working student, he would help his sister sew shorts on a treadle sewing machine while studying from a book held in front of him by rubber bands.
He enrolled in the Polytechnic School in Saigon and being the hardworking and intelligent person that he is, excelled.
However, because his father was executed by the VC on suspicion of working with the Americans, Do has been blacklisted by the Vietnamese government even to this day. This meant he was not allowed to teach in the government schools but instead was sent to the mountains of Quang Ngai province to work in the fields. It was dangerous work in a dangerous territory.
Eventually he was allowed to teach English in the College in Quang Ngai province.
1994 Teacher of English
In1994 he was asked by the Quang Ngai province Women's Union to translate for them. They were working with an American on their microcredit projects. That American was Mike Boehm.
1998 Madison Quakers Inc. (MQI)
It was over several conversations in Vietnam that Mike and Do came to realize that they both had the same goals- looming big in their hearts and minds. They started what has become a very successful relationship- one between people and countries.
Over the decades the collaboration between Mike and Do has resulted in the success of a myriad of humanitarian projects in Quang Ngai province. While Mike's role has been to raise funds for these projects, he attributes the success of these projects to partner and mentor and friend, Mr. Phan Van Do.