Year Joined MKLM: 2000, 2015
City: Cochabamba and Punata
Focus: Education, Pastoral Care
Project(s): Fe y Alegria Virgen del Rosario (FAVR) Technical School, Punata, and San Antonio Prison, Cochabamba
People Served: children, youth and incarcerated men
Project Goal(s): Accompanying people through education and training to improve their lives. Making connections between peoples, churches and communities.
Hiep and his wife, Tawny, were assigned to Bolivia in 2015. At FAVR, a technical school in Punata, Hiep provides computer training to the teachers as well as computer repairs. He also helps them with English conversation. In the evenings, he teaches young adults common home repairs. He also assists local children in Rosario village with after-school activities. At San Antonio Prison in Cochabamba, Hiep teaches computer repair skills to the men. With fun and practical learning activities, he helps them gain confidence. One of the prisoners enjoyed Hiep’s teaching so much that, after finishing his sentence, he went back to college, enrolled in computer science classes, and is studying for an engineering degree. He now works as a volunteer with Hiep, going back to the prison to teach others.
Hiep states, “God blesses me with everything and grants me much more than I deserve. I want to offer back to God what I could and at the same time experience God’s presence in mission. In my ministries I am fortunate to share life with people otherwise almost impossible to be in touch with.”
Hiep was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and recently lived in Orange County, California. He has a bachelor of science in electrical engineering degree from California State University in Northridge. He was a senior quality control technical staff member at a U.S. defense electronics company. Hiep worked at 4NextGens, a youth activities program, as a tutor and administrator. He was a secretary of the Los Angeles Archdiocese Vietnamese Community. He taught computer operations at several convents in Los Angeles and performed audits for the Vietnamese Sisters Support Association. Hiep tutored students in English and math and prepared them to take the Scholastic Assessment Test. He was a court interpreter and a teacher of English for speakers of other languages (TESOL). At Our Lady of Peace Parish in North Hills, California, Hiep was a youth and choir leader.
Hiep first served with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam from 2000 until 2010. In Thailand he assisted at food banks and homeless shelters for Myanmar refugees and other displaced people who were migrating to northern Thailand. He ran a mobile children’s library to help them learn and play. Hiep opened a computer center to teach teachers and trained students using computer educational programs. In Myanmar, he taught computer usage/repair classes and English lessons. Hiep trained priests and seminarians with basic computer skills and introduced them to the internet. In Vietnam, he worked with autistic children.
Together with his wife, Hiep took over a juvenile delinquent program. He instituted introductory courses in motorcycle repair and welding skills. He later added computer classes that enhanced the young people’s ability to rehabilitate and reintegrate to society. He founded the Street Kids Project that taught and provided meals to many children in need. With assistance from friends and relatives, Hiep continues to support a scholarship program to help underprivileged children in South and North Vietnam with scholarships and uniforms. Many local youth have become fine young adults and return the kindness with new members.
After taking some time to care for Hiep’s father, Hiep and Tawny rejoined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2015 and have been serving in Bolivia since then.
Hiep shares, “I want to be a missionary. Through Maryknoll Lay Missioners, we can share our faith, while cherishing numerous opportunities for fellowship and ongoing faith enrichment through specific apostolic works.”