Quyn Le

From heart of darkness, blind grad shines

June 10, 2010

Document Tools

Print This Article

E-mail This Page

Font Size
S      M      L      XL

Related Links

Difficult doesn’t begin to describe Quyn Le’s desperate childhood escape from wartorn communist Vietnam to an Indonesian refugee camp and, ultimately, Canada.

Nor does thankful begin to express her feelings now, as the once shy little blind girl destined for a beggar’s life in Saigon prepares to receive her master’s degree in counselling psychology at SFU this month.

“It seems like a dream sometimes,” admits Le, recalling her family’s arduous getaway and her life since then. “But not a nightmare,” she adds quickly, “because we’re actually very lucky and grateful to be here.”

Blinded at age two, Le’s prospects were bleak in a culture where disabled people get just five years of schooling, often ending up on the street selling lottery tickets, “which is little more than begging,” she says. Her parents were determined to give her a better life elsewhere.

After one failed attempt that left her father in jail for six months and in Vietnam until years later, nine-year-old Le and her mother and older sister escaped in 1989 on a rickety, overcrowded vessel with 100 other “boat people.”

Their grueling 10-day voyage, during which pirates robbed them and raped several women onboard, ultimately landed them at Indonesia’s Galang Island refugee camp for four years with 20,000 other refugees.

The Salvation Army finally sponsored their resettlement to Hamilton, Ont., in 1994 and Le spent the next four years at the W. Ross Macdonald school for the blind in nearby Brantford.

She was initially turned down for university because of her poor English so Le polished her language skills for two years and tried again.

This time McMaster University said yes and she breezed through a BA in psychology before heading to SFU where her intelligence and warmth quickly charmed everyone in the education faculty’s counselling psychology program.

“She’s a gifted student and an amazing person who will make an excellent counsellor,” says SFU counselling psychology assistant professor, Natalee Popadiuk.

“I’ve never seen anyone with so many things against them become such a success. People love her—and her (guide) dog Nugget.”

So what’s next for Le? “I hope to fulfill my life-long dream of making a difference in people’s lives as a counsellor,” she says, “helping them ease their emotional struggles.”


Commenting is closed
Comment Guidelines

Donna McKenzie

I grew up in Vietnam,1958-1975, the child of missionaries. I worked as a nurse with the Vietnamese boat people and was so privileged to have contact with my 'countrymen' in Canada. Quyen is an amazing example of courage and strength...what a wonderful addition to Canada!!!

tom bissett

I am happy to see that Quyen was so successful. I am a blind person and came across Quyen's story a few years ago and have wondered how she was doing.

Congradulations to Quyen. such an achievement for any one is a challenge, for a blind person it is outstanding


I would love to get int ouch with miss LE.. i have the article about her in Van sun.. can some one assist me in getting int ouch with her.. i would like to invite her to my International women's day event

use this email please .



I wonder if her Prof. Ms. Popadiuk would be able to connect with her and me.

Search SFU News Online