She escaped out of Vietnam in 1979. As a member of a Chinese community, she said it was a mass exodus out to sea. She spent seven days on a boat in the Gulf of Thailand with 502 other refugees.
“While we were at sea, one died, but another was born,” she explained. Pirates attacked the boat four times in that week, yet, thankfully, she, along with her mother, father, two brothers and two sisters, landed at a refugee camp in Indonesia.
“For seven months, we moved to four different islands, then waited 12 days at a Singapore refugee camp before flying to California,” she said. They were then flown to Minnesota where a sponsor family cared for them until they moved to the Philadelphia area.
No, the saga isn’t a premise for a Hollywood thriller. It is the true-life story of one dedicated businesswoman who calls her life an ongoing “metamorphosis.”
While she lives with her husband in the township, operating her successful window design business from her home, things did not come easy for her. She now hopes to take her many years of success and find a way to give it back to the community. Her lofty goal is to raise $10,000 for a local charity.
The last 35 years, however, to get her to this point, Tran had a long row to hoe, and a crammed refugee boat was just the beginning.
“My dad survived only seven years after we settled here,” she said. “He died before he was 51.”
The eldest of five, Tran had to leave school, work two or three jobs at a time, and even sew her own clothing to help her windowed mother make ends meet.
“That summer, I took 12 credits to get back on track and graduate on time,” she said. After a degree in chemistry from Villanova, Tran went on to work for more than 17 as a medical research chemist for both Wyeth an Merck.
“I was part of a team that created a drug coming out to treat AIDS, now on the market,” said Tran. “It was nice and fulfilling, but after a while, your passion dries up.”
Being hard on her health, as well as her soul, Tran began to seek another profession.
“It all started with me wanting to do my own drapes for my house,” she said. Unsatisfied with the quality of work she found on the market, Tran sought out a North Carolina-based professional drapery school, where she “love, love, loved it.”
The rest, as they say, is history, but Tran isn’t quite done.
“This is a year of reflection, of gratitude,” she said, as she marks ten years in the window design business. “I want to do something to make an impact.” To do so, she is bringing her window designs to the stage for charity.
“Open the Blinds to Domestic Violence” will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia on Thursday, Feb. 26 from 6 to 9 p.m.
For $75 per person, local community members are also invited to give back as Tran has selected The Laurel House, of Norristown, as her beneficiary for funds raised.
“It is the only organization in Montgomery County that provides a safe haven for abused women and children,” said Tran. “There are so many good causes out there, cancer, heart disease, strokes. Those are things that can be prevented somewhat, but you can’t really be in total control of them. With domestic violence, you can be in control of it. You can help people by making them aware of help, and getting out of a situation.”
Tran said she knows it is not easy, but she aims to bring not only a financial donation but more light to the issue many find “shameful.”
“A lot of people hide it in fear,” she said. “You don’t want to tell people because it is a shameful issue, and you don’t want that ugliness of your family out there.”
But with the proper support, Tran hopes to change that in a community where she’s done so much.
The night will include a window “fashion show,” to showcase the décor and ideas of Distinctive Designs for 2015, as well as a glass of wine, glass of toasting champagne, dinner, and a take-home jute bag.
Tickets are for sale online here, and include a $2.25 processing fee. For ordering by check, please send check payable to: WFR4ACause to 2706 Lloyd Lane, Eagleville, PA 19403.
“My life has been a metamorphosis, coming from a space where window treatments meant metal bars to prevent robbers, to a point where I can appreciate the comforts and luxury in life,” said Tran. “My life has gone through many stages, from drab to fab, and I want to show people how they can do that, too. I want to give that feeling to them.”