The Power of Story

By Sharon Orlopp, Board Member

I have been involved with The Harwood Institute for over five years---first as a participant at several annual Summits and as a champion of Harwood-style community conversations. I have been humbled and honored to serve on the Board of the Harwood Institute for the past three years.

I have seen the transformative power of story. Stories touch the heart and change behaviors. Stories burn deeply within each of us. Stories are what make us human. We tell stories to connect with each other. Stories are human currency. Stories have the power to bring us together to share and heal.

Thuhang Tran (left) and Susan Orlopp (right) Co-authors of  Standing Up After Saigon

Thuhang Tran (left) and Susan Orlopp (right)
Co-authors of Standing Up After Saigon

In 2016, I met an amazing woman, Thuhang Tran. Born in Saigon near the end of the Vietnam War, Thuhang was two-and-a-half years old when she contracted polio which left her legs partially paralyzed. Thuhang’s parents and siblings cared for her and sacrificed to get her the treatment that would enable her to walk again. But their efforts were disrupted when communists invaded South Vietnam and her father, Chinh, an air traffic controller in the South Vietnam Air Force, was lost in evacuations and presumed dead. Chinh narrowly escaped to America and relentlessly focused on reuniting with his family for fifteen years. Once Thuhang immigrated to the States, she had surgery that enabled her to stand upright and walk after crawling on the ground for seventeen years.

Thuhang and I co-authored her personal odyssey in Standing Up After Saigon. There is a scarcity of personal, civilian memoirs from Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon. Thuhang’s story provides a unique window into a particular era in history; it is also a powerful reminder that against overwhelming odds, humans can prevail with hope, perseverance, and family love.

Thuhang hopes to inspire those who “feel invisible, under-appreciated, under-utilized, made fun of, disrespected, and not valued. I hope my journey as a person who is an immigrant and differently-abled will build bridges of interconnectedness and cultural understanding and give inspiration totreating all people with dignity, respect, and inclusion.”

To learn more about Thuhang Tran’s triumphant story, view the book trailer and visit