Leidos Serves: New charity for Vietnamese children was decades in the making
Leidos Serves is dedicated to sharing the stories of employees that give back to charitable organizations.
Surrounded by people, yet alone, a young Tan Nguyen left his family behind and sailed to Thailand on a cramped fishing boat. South Vietnam, the land he called home, was being consumed by communism.
While Nguyen was lucky enough to attend school in Vietnam, his family had no money for his clothing or school supplies, so he patched old clothes and bound his own notebooks. Nguyen was one of the more fortunate ones, as many of his peers simply could not afford to go to school. Knowing he would have to leave Vietnam for a better life, Nguyen set his sights on Thailand. The trip took several weeks and upon arrival, the passengers were transported to Sikhiu Refugee Camp in northeast Thailand.
Nguyen lived at the camp until he became one of the Vietnamese refugees that qualified for transport to the United States. He landed in Plano, Texas when he was 20 and he hit the ground running. Nguyen immediately started learning English and studying for the General Education Development (GED) test, which he earned within three months of his arrival to the U.S.
Nguyen went on to study at Richland College in Plano while simultaneously working as a dishwasher. Within a year, he moved to Atlantic City, where he obtained his license to be a gaming casino dealer and began to study electrical engineering at Temple University. After receiving Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from Temple, Nguyen was hired by Lockheed Martin as a Systems Integration Test Engineer and he remained with the company until its IS&GS Business merged with Leidos in 2016.
In his spare time, Nguyen devotes himself to giving those in Vietnam a better life than he had growing up. His goal is very simple: “I just want to help kids in Vietnam go to school.” Nguyen has done that by sending money and supplies to Vietnam for the past 20 years in an unofficial capacity. That changed earlier this year when Leidos hosted a “Leidos Gives” campaign as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. Nguyen was chosen as one of 10 winners of the charitable contest, prompting him to establish an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. That’s how the Charitable Organization for Vietnamese Education and Sustenance (COVES) was created.
Nguyen started sending emails to his friends, knowing that he could expand his charitable efforts to something greater than just himself. Now that COVES is an official charity, they have plans to grow within the next year to help the less fortunate put food on their tables. Eventually, Nguyen says he would like to expand to paying for hospital bills and medication for those who need it, but the new organization needs to gain more momentum first.
Right now through July 31, 2019, COVES is running an education fundraiser for the upcoming school year. In just the first two weeks of the campaign, COVES raised almost $4,000 to help children in Vietnam pay for tuition, school supplies, uniforms, and breakfast. For more information on COVES and how you can contribute, visit their website.
Nguyen's efforts to better the future generation is not limited to children in Vietnam. He is helping open a community center in Atlantic City, N.J., where he has resided for over 30 years and now considers his hometown. Nguyen plans to teach martial arts classes to children with hopes to foster citizenship and discipline to stimulate success in the classroom. The center will open in September and Nguyen is excited to expand his charitable efforts to the Atlantic City community.