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Anh Nguyen grew up in Central Vietnam and with his family fled to Thailand in 1975. Moving to Australia in 1984 he now works at Barnados as a youth worker.

This is his story.

I grow up in central Vietnam, my father was a soldier for the old Vietnamese regime, my mother stayed home to look after us and ran a small business. I was in my third year of law in 1975 when the communists took over the country and our house was seized by the government. Our family had to leave everything and move to south Vietnam.

I escaped Vietnam in 1981 and lived in a Thai refugee camp until an Australian delegation accepted me in 1984. In the refugee camp life was difficult. I saw many young girls and women struggling and many others suffering from mental illness. I felt for the children in the camp who missed out on an education and the opportunity to grow-up with their families. It is because of my experience in the refugee camp that lead me towards working to help others.

In Australia I was asked by friends to volunteer at the Moon Festival for Vietnamese youth in Bankstown. It was at this event that I met others working to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth in Western Sydney. So, I decided to become a Barnados youth worker. After a while I moved on to be a Youth Worker for Open Family-Whitelion Australia where I have been for the past 19 years. In my role I help homeless youth get back on their feet as well as provide support to those experiencing difficulty in their lives.

The biggest challenge for me is to try and be a role model to young people. It is vital to show them that they are not alone and that there are plenty of people here who understand what they are going through and are willing to help.

“It is tough to get the message through to young people that life is beautiful and worth living."

Over the years working with young people on the street suffering homelessness, poverty, drug and alcohol issues, I have found that the best way to help them is through education programs that help them to break the cycle.

I also work with the Men’s shed at Dural who teach our young people new skills. This is a great initiative to provide mentoring and community services to youth at risk. I hope in the future to see more men’s sheds in our region to help our youth across all of New South Wales.

The biggest reward I get is when I see young people overcome adversity and return to their communities to help others overcome similar issues.

“Seeing the people I help want to pay it forward motivates me to keep doing the important work I am doing."