Compassion in Vietnam

We define ourselves by our own response to human need. We become engaged through the perception of our own obligation and opportunity. 

War didn’t call me into Vietnam . . . but human need did! My first trip into Saigon was in early 1996. As a result of that trip I was introduced to a precious lady named Binh Rybacki. Binh was a native of Vietnam and was one of the last to be plucked off the roof of the American Embassy by helicopter in Saigon as the Americans were in hot retreat from the city in 1975. She and her family had tied their wrists together so that none could be left behind. 

Binh’s father was a professor at the prestigious University of Saigon and the family was well off financially. Binh was a student. Vietnam was just coming out of one war and was presently engaged in a vicious civil war with the Communists from the North. One day the students found a large notice posted on the bulletin board. It stated that all the students of the English Department would be killed very soon. They all laughed at the incredulous impossibility. But the officials of the school told them that the notice was serious and that they needed to go away to find their own protection. The priest of the school even gave them their last rites just in case he would not be around to do it later. The Communists entered Saigon and began randomly killing the students at the University, as well as thousands in the city. Binh and her friend escaped from an upstairs window and onto a roof and down into a dumpster, thinking that the killing would stop and the Communists would leave. But they didn’t. 

Binh’s sister worked for the US Embassy in Saigon, so their whole family was targeted for death by the Communists. As the Embassy loudspeakers played Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” the last helicopter lifted from the Embassy roof and Binh and her family were on that chopper! They were flown to Fort Chafee, Arkansas, and eventually resettled with a host family in Loveland, Colorado. Binh started her career with Hewlett Packard, married her husband, Jack, and together they had three boys. When her mother died in America, Binh felt compelled to return to Vietnam for the first time to find her Mother’s closest friend, a nun, and inform her of the death. 

Binh eventually found the friend hiding in the countryside, illegally harboring 27 orphaned children. Binh discovered that the set of circumstances in which you find yourself will determine where you can start, but will not determine where you can go in order to change things. She made a vow to get involved. She told me, “The message was very clear even if the way was not!” 

By 1998, the orphanage that started with 27 hidden children grew under the leadership of Binh to four remarkable orphanages with 1600 abandoned kids.. Binh and her husband, Jack, pledged Binh’s entire salary from Hewlett Packard to personally underwrite the orphanage work. With her traveling back and forth from USA to Vietnam, the orphanage project experienced remarkable blessing and grew rapidly. 

Project C.U.R.E. was privileged to get involved with Binh’s venture and deliver over $2 million worth of donated medical goods to the Children of Peace organization and surrounding hospitals in Vietnam. The Vietnamese children were “better off,” the Children of Peace organization was “better off,” but, undeniably, Project C.U.R.E. experienced the greatest benefit, from being associated with such a great lady as Binh Rybacki. We became first-hand witnesses of a miracle that took place in the heart and life of a lady who defined her own life by her response to human need. She became engaged through the perception of her own obligation and a ready opportunity.