Manitoba·Video

Winnipeg tailor, former refugee hands out 100 sandwiches to mark anniversary of his journey

Winnipeg businessman and former refugee Tam Nguyen is making 100 Vietnamese sandwiches to deliver to people in need, to mark a special anniversary.

'It doesn't matter how big or small, we can help each other,' says Tam Nguyen

Celebrating milestone while giving back to people in need

CBC News Manitoba

15 days ago
1:49
To mark a special anniversary, Winnipeg businessman and former refugee Tam Nguyen is making 100 Vietnamese sandwiches to deliver to people in need. 1:49

To mark a special anniversary, Winnipeg businessman and former refugee Tam Nguyen is making 100 Vietnamese sandwiches to deliver to people in need.

The tailor and former restaurateur is celebrating 41 years since he safely escaped Vietnam by boat.

"I feel happy," Nguyen said. "I feel I'm really lucky."

May 4 marks the anniversary of his arrival in Malaysia, following a harrowing five-day journey by boat. He then headed to Canada at the age of 23 with not much more than the clothes on his back. 

Nguyen, who has come to be known as "Tam the tailor," still runs Tam Custom Tailor on Ellice Avenue and formerly ran Tam's Pho on Portage Avenue.

He does something every year to mark the anniversary of his escape and survival, and to share his joy for landing in Winnipeg.

Tam Nguyen with his wife and son on Sunday preparing sandwiches to hand out to people in need. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

This year, he chose to make 100 Vietnamese sandwiches, known as banh mi, because he said he knows what it feels like to go without. He recalls crossing the ocean between Vietnam and Malaysia in a small boat, roughly two meters wide and 10 meters long. 

"It was scary, so I know how it feels [to be] hungry, how it feels [to be] thirsty," he said. "So I try to remember back."

The sandwiches will be handed out to people outside of Thunderbird House in Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon, he said.

Nguyen said it's important for him to give back to others, even in small ways.

"It doesn't matter how big or small, we can help each other," he said.     

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