Rescue Mission
Your donation will help people in need.

Founder’s Message

The LeWaiss Rescue Mission is a memorial  5-21-2012 (first anniversary) to my beloved Greg Waiss.

In honor of my husband, Greg's passing, I establish this mission
I decided to give Quan the profit from the sale of my books as a beginning of our modest mission
Thank you to everyone who partners with us in our work.

In honor of my late husband, Greg Waiss, I established this mission to help the needy in Vietnam with food and education relief.

For information and photos of all the students and elderly we currently support in Vietnam, order our book, LeWaiss Rescue Mission from Amazon.com

Recent Media Coverage of the LeWaiss Rescue Mission from the Peninsula Gateway Newspaper


Woman starts charity to help Vietnamese children

Lifestyles: Thu Le founded LeWaiss Rescue Mission, which helps put children in Vietnam through school

of the GatewayJanuary 1, 2014 

Le founded the LeWaiss Rescue Mission two years ago after her husband died. For $60 a year, donors can put a Vietnamese child through a school.

Le personally delivers the tuition money and school supplies to the rural area where the children live. If donors go above and beyond the suggested donation, Le uses the money to purchase monthly food for the elderly and infirm in the village.

Le said it’s important that those who deserve education but cannot afford it are recognized for their academic work.

“You can tell that they’re good kids,” she said. “To me, they deserve to get help.”

Donors get a hand-written thank you note from the children they support. Le keeps a big, three-ring binder with all of the letters back and forth, from sponsor to child. She translates each letter from Vietnamese to English.

Le thinks back to her childhood when she looks at the students’ penmanship.

“It’s like my writing,” she said. “It’s how I was trained.”

Le bustles through her house. She designs quilts, makes pillows and embroiders panels — all to sell for her charity.

She has trouble finding frames for some of her embroidery. It’s unique to her country.

Extremely detailed, the panel is embroidered on both sides without knots showing. It takes a special standing frame to show off.

Those that are framed, in Vietnam, are sitting on Le’s dining room table. She designs quilts in a labyrinth pattern. Every Monday, a few friends come over to help Le craft.

Her escape from Vietnam was risky, but she said it was better than staying. With two children in tow and a third on the way, Le came to a country with a new culture, language and people.

It was scary, she said, but what did she have to lose?

“Otherwise,” she said with a laugh, “they kill us anyway.”

Her first husband was involved in politics. Later in life, she met Greg Waiss, a former Marine who served in Vietnam. He grew to love the culture and, before he died of cancer, Le and Waiss visited the country.

It was in the wake of his death that the charity was born.

On a trip in 2012, Le met Zet. From a rural town in Dien Khanh, Zet left school when he was in the 11th grade. His family had no money for shoes.

After he struggled through beatings and muggings in the city, trying to earn money, he became a Buddhist layperson and traveled between the city and the countryside.

Zet opened Le’s eyes to the poverty in the countryside. They combined to found the LeWaiss rescue mission.

Le is ready to release a book based on her life called “Almond Eyes, Porcelain Complexion: A Vietnamese Refugee’s Story.” It will be available on Amazon.com. Proceeds will go to help the children she supports.

An auction will be held to raise money for the mission. There is a suggested $35 donation. The auction will run from 3 to 7 p.m. May 31 at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center, 4851 S. Tacoma Way. Donations to the mission can be made at www.LeWaissRescueMission.com.

Le has had recent health problems, and she hopes someone will take over the rescue mission. She’d like to see the legacy live on after she’s gone.

For now, she wants to spend her life helping as many people as possible.

“I feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’d better hurry,’ ” she said.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.


Founder's Message



   As a Vietnamese refugee, Vietnam is forever a part of me. My husband, Greg Waiss, also loved Vietnam. Greg and I met late in life and married after his cancer diagnosis. We made the most of every moment together especially in light of his cancer. His cancer was probably caused by his exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam. Yet he remembered Vietnam fondly and returned there with me.
  On my trip to Vietnam with my family in 2012, I met a wonderful young man named Quan. Tue Van (his Buddhist baptized name) whose life story inspired me to help those in need. Quan is from a small rural
town in Dien Khanh, Nha Trang. Zet (his family nickname) and his family had difficulty surviving after the war, but he excelled in school and discovered he had talents for business, singing, and art. He left school at grade 11 because his family could not afford a pair of shoes for him to wear. After watching his parents struggle financially, he decided to quit school to look for a job in order to help.

   Zet left the rural area where he grew up to look for work in Ho Chi Minh City. There he was the target of beating and muggings. Tired of struggling to make a living in the city, he decided to direct all of his time to his family and to Buddha. He became a Buddhist layperson. Now he goes back and forth between countryside and city. He goes into the city to work and then every so often donates all of his earnings to his family and to charity. His main focus is to help other children finish their education because he was not able to do so. Meeting Zet, I felt such compassion for him and his family. Through all the hardship he and his family have endured, they remain ever thankful for their blessings. I felt inspired by Zet and his family, and decided that I would do all I could to help and contribute to the good he was doing


    Zet explained that his goal is to be humble and comply to Buddhism’s philosophy, and to reduce the suffering of others. While I found his goal so admirable that I wanted to help. His parents were saddened when he first became a Buddhist lay person. In their eyes those blessings were wasted on his new decision. They had hoped he would marry and have children. However, as time passed and he succeeded in helping many people, his family grew to appreciate his decision. By the time I met him, they were helping him with his charity work. 

    I met Zet when he happened to be our guide during my 2012 visit to Vietnam. I noticed that whenever I paid him, he turned around and bought food for someone that was hungry or gave the money to those in need. He saw me give some money to a person begging on the street and said, “Sister, although those people may be in need, there are people that need your donation more in the rural areas. There are no tourists there to help them. Please go for a ride with me and I will show you.” He took me to a suburb of Saigon to visit an elderly man that was homeless and hungry.

    I gave him five dollars and Zet told me, “With that gift he will be able to eat for many days.” The elderly man thanked me over and over, and

I realized then what little effort it takes to help those in need.

    I spoke more to Zet about his life. I found that we shared many of the same views. I understood and admired his choices and was struck by his candor and honesty.

     I found I wanted to support what he was doing.

      After this visit I developed an idea. I decided to support Zet any way I could. By donating the proceeds of my book sales, by auctioning of the beautiful embroideries, quilts and  handcrafted items that my friends and I made, and by saving the money I had planned to spend on future trips, I would help him purchase a small piece of land to start a humble rescue mission. He and I talked it over and he said, “Sister, that is a lot of money to save. In the mean time, we could be helping people. Let me ask my parents if we can use their property to begin a small part of this good work.”

       I immediately agreed and realized my mission was now two-fold. I decided to create a mission to send aid and donations to help Vietnamese people. Since that time, I have sent whatever money I can to Zet who buys rice and other food for those in need. I call this charity the “LeWaiss Rescue Mission.”

        Right now we can only afford to deliver rice to the hungry just once a month. With more donations we will be able to purchase rice more frequently and sponsor more orphans.

Thu LeWaiss