Jackie Bong- Wright

The facility that was created in Alexandria to help refugees adjust to their new lives stuck out to me while we were discussing newspaper articles on Vietnamese refugees.  I especially wanted to learn more about the article, “Refugees Adjusting to a Land of Plenty.” [1]

This article talked about a “temporary shelter for refugees in Alexandria” called the Welcome House.[2] Although the facility was interesting, I also wanted to find more information on the person who ran it–Jackie Bong-Wright. Today, Bong-Wright has an official website where many of her writings are published as well as a small biography. In her personal writings, Bong-Wright explores the experiences of Vietnamese refugees, before and after the Fall of Saigon.  Vietnamese who came to the United States faced many hurdles. She states: “South Vietnam has never been described as a real country, with a university system, a corps of civil servants, and normal middle-class people struggling to make successes of their lives in the midst of chaos and upheaval.”[3]

Bong-Wright discusses the hardships that her family went through too. She explains the difficulties of a divided family.  Some members of her family supported the Viet Cong and others opposed them.[4] Bong-Wright was the youngest of 10 children. She attended French schools in Vietnam and the University of Bordeaux in France. She met her first husband, Bong, in Paris. Unfortunately, he was assassinated by Viet Cong terrorists. In 1972, Bong-Wright worked as the Director of Cultural Activities of the Vietnamese-American Association, “a center sponsored by the U.S. information Service.”[5] It makes sense that Bong-Wright would be involved in helping Vietnamese refugees adjust to their lives in America, when she also tried to bridge these relations when she lived in Vietnam. In addition, Bong-Wright was very well respected by the American government.  With help from friends at the American embassy, Bong-Wright was able to flee Vietnam with her children, days before the fall of Saigon. For two months, Bong-Wright’s family was in three different refugee camps. Once they found their way to the Washington Metropolitan area, she met her second husband, Lacy Wright, who was an American diplomat. Bong-Wright went on to work with Vietnamese “boat people” and into the field of foreign social services.

Jackie continues to help the Vietnamese community today.

Video 1: “Vietnamese American Youth Leadership Conference (VAYLC) 2012 – YouTube,” accessed November 6, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvyKhYXWsT8.

It is clear that it was difficult for Bong-Wright to write about her past. I feel as though the pain can be felt through the words. It is a testament to the strength she has. I still am fascinated about the Welcome House and how it was able to help other refugees find this strength. I have contacted Jackie in order to gain more insight about the Welcome House and ask her questions.  For example, how long did Welcome House run for? What were the main goals of the place? What programs were available for the refugees? Were the refugees who came able to speak English?  I hope to understand more about the people who came to Alexandria and what is was like for them when trying to start their lives over.

[1][1]  Kerry Dougherty, “Refugees Adjusting to a Land of Plenty,” The Washington Post, February 14, 1980.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Jackie Bong Wright, “About Jackie,” Jackie Bong Wright, last modified 2015, accessed October 30, 2015, http://jackiebongwright.com/about-jackie/author/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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