Car washing. Wearing donated clothes and shoes. Working at the local public library. Surviving on state welfare to put food on the table. Taking care of his younger brother while his mother took on two jobs at a gas station and supermarket to keep the lights on at home. Thuan Pham arrived in the United States from Vietnam as a refugee when he was 11 years old.
Pham was born in Vietnam in the late 1960s, to parents who barely finished high school. Due to the political situation in Vietnam, it became increasingly unsafe for Pham and his family to stay in the country, and hence his mother made a decision to leave the country. Pham's mother sold everything they had in order to pay for the journey but failed a couple of times to escape as the arranged boat did not show up. The boat finally showed up; but during the journey, Pham and his family were pirated twice.