“We had no future,” Hoang said. “We could not go to school—there was not a prospect for anything.”
He was the co-captain of a boat with 66 passengers that raced out to sea as bullets whizzed by its bow. The engine of the boat, which had been built and stored in secret, broke down on the open water. It eventually reached Indonesia after nine days at sea.
“If you survive that, you can survive anything,” said Hoang, who nevertheless earned a computer engineering degree in Canada and an MBA in Illinois.
He moved to Orange County in 1991 for a job as a computer engineer designing memory and storage and had several jobs before starting the consultancy that grew into Virtium.
Seven years ago Hoang started the nonprofit SAVICE, an acronym for “Save a Vietnamese Child with Education,” with the goal of raising money to help underprivileged kids in his native country.
SAVICE opened its first school in 2008.
Many of its first students are now in college.
The nonprofit has provided more than 600 scholarships to help students attend secondary schools their parents can’t afford.
“We keep them off the farm, keep them off the street,” Hoang said. “In a way you change their life.”
Hoang said he was once like the kids his organization is trying to help and keep in school.
He doesn’t visit Vietnam often and doesn’t elaborate too much on his childhood.
“It’s just emotional each time I go back.”