Cha Lee Xiong
Four decades ago, Cha Lee joined our effort while he and his family were refugees in Ban Vinai camp, Thailand. He went on to help out in the U.S. not only as Board Member of Minors, but served more than once as Chairperson and as Financial Officer, and many other less formal roles, and endured many difficult journeys to help out at our project sites in Asia.
Here are some images of Cha Lee over the years, always cheerfully hard at it.
Minors’ workspace adjacent to the JVA (Joint Voluntary Agency) building where the U.S. embassy interviewed refugees for resettlement, in Ban Vinai Camp, Loei Province, Thailand. Mai Chue, our able assistant, along with chief interviewer of orphans, Cha Lee. Our “office” floor was mud in the monsoon, dust in the dry season, with a leaky thatch roof.
Yucking it up while interviewing orphans, Cha Lee usually kept it light, here along with another great Minors’ volunteer, himself an unaccompanied minor and future Minnesotan, Xao Vang. Must have been a Saturday, as we are actually inside; no electricity on, but a solid roof and even a cement floor.
A great day, as several of the menyam ntsuag (children orphaned or without their parents) depart Ban Vinai for transit camp at Panatnikhom in southern Thailand, on their way to reunite with family members in the U.S. In many, many cases thanks to the diligence of Cha Lee.
Another day at the buses, not so cheerful, saying goodbye to a friend heading to the U.S.
Amy, Bee and Cha Lee at their own interview with JVA, before they left Ban Vinai for the U.S..
Several years later Cha Lee and Amy came back to Asia to help us document our program at remote schools, here taking great care to keep his video equipment out of a leaky boat, in Quang Nam province, in central Viet Nam.
Some years later, Cha Lee was back, this time in far northern Viet Nam at mountain schools serving Hmong and other highland children. Among the throng of boarding students lined up to receive blankets, Cha Lee can be seen at work in the far left of the photo, at a school in Dong Van, Ha Giang province.
In some of the more remote mountain villages, Cha Lee was our explainer in chief. Many folks here had never heard of America, so Cha did his best to explain where he was from and what we were doing here, in Lai Chau province.
Visiting a lunchroom at a boarding school in Lung Thau commune, Dong Van district at Ha Giang province, with local officials.
20 years after resettling in the U.S., Minors’ chief diplomat raises a glass with a local official, along with Minors’ Director of Projects in Viet Nam, Mr. Bui Thanh Minh, on the right, at Muong Khuong district.
By this time Bee was old enough to come along, and apparently old enough to join in the relentless toasting of her dad by local officials.
Amy and Bee carrying on the work, at a boarding school for primary students, on a cold day in Lao Cai Province.
Cha Lee's family has established a web page for contributions for funeral and medical costs: